Major League Baseball's offseason has been bananas, right? Perhaps the wildest and most active in recent memory—or maybe ever. At least, that's how it feels while we're right in the middle of it.
But how does this offseason stack up with hot stoves past?
Let's start with a quick table that ranks the past nine offseasons in terms of total spending on free-agent contracts, according to ESPN.com:
|Total Offseason Spending on Free Agents (2006-14)|
|OFFSEASON||TOTAL $ SPENT ON FAs|
That's as far back as ESPN's free-agent tracker tool goes, but there's practically a decade's worth of open-market expenditures, which gives us a pretty good idea.
As you can see, this offseason currently ranks as the third-highest spending in this time frame, behind 2006-07 and, yep, last year, when the New York Yankees paid out roughly half a billion all by themselves.
Because so many free agents have found homes by now, there's no way 2014-15 can top 2013-14. But it is likely this winter will surpass 2006-07, especially once some team signs James Shields, who reportedly is seeking $125 million but may have to settle for a salary with eight figures instead, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
And here's a look at how many clubs have paid out at least $100 million—a pretty good benchmark amount to qualify as a "big spender"—each of the past nine offseasons:
|Number of Teams to Spend $100+ Million on Free Agents (2006-14)|
|OFFSEASON||# TEAMS SPENDING $100+ MILLION|
Again, the current hot-stove season rates rather high, but not quite the highest, with regard to how many clubs are spending nine figures on free agents. At least, not yet.
It's feasible, though, that another team will join the current $100 million big spenders—the Washington Nationals, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees—depending on where Shields winds up.
At least objectively, then, this offseason has been busy and splurgy on the free-agent front, but not necessarily the busiest or splurgiest, even within the past decade.
Of course, none of the above figures takes into account the record-setting $325 million extension Giancarlo Stanton signed with the Miami Marlins in November, or the $100 million one Kyle Seager inked in early December to stay with the Seattle Mariners.
And as an overzealous infomercial pitchman might superficially exclaim: That's not all!
This offseason also has brought (deep breath): the Red Sox near-$100 million inkings of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez on the same day; the late-fall acquisitions of Jason Heyward (now a St. Louis Cardinal) and Josh Donaldson (now a Toronto Blue Jay); the on-the-fly makeovers of the White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers; and the Arizona Diamondbacks' decision to go big after a pair of Cuban free agents, Yasmany Tomas and Yoan Lopez. (Phew!)
Add those in, and well, the case for 2014-15 as the wildest offseason only gets stronger.
What really sticks out about this offseason—and what has made it so chaotic in our collective memory bank—is all of the activity early on, especially during the winter meetings back in December.
Over the course of those four days, Dec. 8 to 11, all hell broke loose at what was still a rather early point in the offseason.
In the span of a little more than 48 hours, Jon Lester signed with the Cubs for a whopping $155 million, Ervin Santana scored $54 million from the Minnesota Twins and David Robertson landed another $46 million from the White Sox.
And on the trade front, all of the following big leaguers were moved—in that same span of time: Matt Kemp, Jeff Samardzija, Yoenis Cespedes, Howie Kendrick, Jimmy Rollins, Rick Porcello, Mat Latos, Brandon Moss, Dee Gordon, Wade Miley, Miguel Montero, Yasmani Grandal, Dan Haren and Alfredo Simon.
As Adam Berry of MLB.com recaps:
Teams handed out more than $500 million in guaranteed contracts and signing bonuses this week in deals that either became official or were agreed upon at the Winter Meetings.
There were 50 players traded and 17 signed via free agency, including 15 who changed teams. Fifteen All-Stars were on the move to a new team, from Yoenis Cespedes, now wearing the Olde English D, to Ervin Santana, heading north to Minnesota.
In all, MLB.com counted a whopping 79 players who changed teams via trade, free agency, waiver claims or the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft this past week in San Diego. Here's a team-by-team look at the players who came and went during a very busy Winter Meetings.
That—combined with the sense that the rumor-filled meetings haven't necessarily been quite that busy in recent years with regards to actual signings and trades, as Paul Casella of Sports on Earth writes—has given this offseason a certain frenetic pace that didn't seem to slow down until just before and just after the new year.
The other factor that has made this such a wacky winter? Just about every team is making a push to contend in 2015, as Dave Cameron wrote for Fox Sports. Well, aside from a few clubs that are rebuilding, like the Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins and Philadelphia Phillies.
To wit, the moribund, punchless San Diego Padres acquired essentially an entire new lineup, with aggressive new general manager A.J. Preller trading for Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Derek Norris and Will Middlebrooks.
Heck, even the Houston Astros—who are tied with the New York Mets for the longest active streak of losing seasons at six—have made a flurry of moves, especially of late, signing Colby Rasmus and trading for Evan Gattis, Luis Valbuena and Dan Straily. All within the past week, and all in the hope of finally becoming more competitive.
So has this been the wildest offseason ever? That depends on how you define wild and how far back you really want to go.
For instance, the 1992-93 offseason also had loads of player movement, especially in the form of big-name free agents, as Michael Clair of MLB.com wrote after the most recent winter meetings:
But while 2014 was nuts, with players like Matt Kemp, Jon Lester, and Yoenis Cespedes all on the move, '92 may have been even wilder. At that year's Meetings, Greg Maddux spurned the Yankees' higher offer to sign with the Braves, Barry Bonds fled the Pirates to join up with San Francisco, and David Cone received the highest annual value for a pitcher when he signed a 3-year, $18 million deal with the Royals.
But that's not all. The Orioles picked up Harold Reynolds on a one-year deal, the Yankees traded three players including J.T. Snow in exchange for Jim Abbott, and the Blue Jays loaded up for a run at repeating as World Series champs by signing Paul Molitor and current Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart. Oh yeah, and the Red Sox signed Andre Dawson!
This offseason may seem like the wackiest and wildest ever, but that's a difficult official declaration to make.
Ultimately, even accounting for recency effect and Max Scherzer snagging $210 million from the Washingotn Nationals earlier this week—the largest free-agent pitcher contract ever awarded—the 2014-15 offseason may have to settle for being one of the most memorable hot-stove seasons.
Then again, there may still be more to come beyond Shields' inevitable signing.
It's possible, for instance, that Cole Hamels, Jordan Zimmermann and/or Troy Tulowitzki—three superstars who have been mentioned as trade candidates all winter long—could get moved.
Should any or all of that happen, it will only make this offseason—already on we won't soon forget—all the more memorable.
To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11.