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Who Were the Best MLB Free Agent Signings for 2012? | July
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In 2012, 100 position players were signed as free agents in Major League Baseball, ranging in cost from $250M over 10 years for Albert Pujols down to several players signed to minimum salary or minor league deals.  Here are my selections for the best and worst free agent signings of the year, based on the season so far. The Diamondbacks have two of the top three signings, and the Rays have two of the worst. A list of all 100 free agent signings, along with their fWAR and bWAR for 2012 (fWAR is Wins Above Replacement from Fangraphs, bWAR is Wins Above Replacement from Baseball-Reference), is posted at the end of this article.

Best Free Agent Signings (Position Players)

(Stats are through games of July 25)

1. Aaron Hill, ARI - 2Yrs/11M; .304/.359/.503, 13 HR, 48 RBI, 3.5 fWAR, 2.5 bWAR
Hill was signed to a two year deal for just $5.5M/year, and currently leads all NL Second Basemen in HR, OBP, SLG, and fWAR, while playing excellent defense at 2B. Hill also has the distinction of being the first player to hit for the cycle twice in one season since Babe Herman in 1931.

2. Josh Willingham, MIN - 3 Yrs/$21M; .271/.384/.563, 25 HR, 72 RBI, 3.7 fWAR, 2.8 bWAR
Willingham leads all 2012 free agents in the WAR calculations; his 72 RBI are tied for 3rd in the Majors, and his 25 HR rank 8th.

3. Jason Kubel, ARI - 2Yrs/$15M; .298/.367/.583, 22 HR, 72 RBI, 2.6 fWAR, 2.2 bWAR
Kubel was probably one of the most criticized signings of the year, but he is leading the NL in RBI (3rd in MLB) with 72. The hitting from Kubel and Hill have helped offset the disappointing offensive seasons from Justin Upton and Chris Young. Defensively, Kubel's 11 Outfield Assists lead the NL, which has helped make up for his lack of range in the outfield.

4. Yoenis Cespedes, OAK - 4 Yrs/$36M; .302/.361/.533, 13 HR, 50 RBI, 1.3 fWAR, 1.0 bWAR
Cespedes has hit much better than expected in his first Major League season. The A's are 41-24 (.631) when Cespedes is in the lineup, compared to 12-20 without him. His poor defense in CF and lack of experience in LF have pulled down his WAR totals, but he has been a big factor in the A's improvement this year.

5. Carlos Beltran, STL - 2 Yrs/$26M; .287/.364/.526, 22 HR, 71 RBI, 2.6 fWAR, 2.5 bWAR
Beltran has picked up the offensive slack from the departed Albert Pujols, leading the Cardinals in HR with 22 and RBI with 71. His defense has slipped a little, but he's helped keep the Cardinals in the NL Wild Card race.

Worst Free Agent Signings

1. Clint Barmes, PIT - 2 Yrs/10.5M; .205/.231/.288, 4 HR, 25 RBI, -0.2 fWAR, -0.3 bWAR
Barmes' .231 OBP is the lowest among all players with at 250 Plate Appearances, and his walk rate of 1.7% (5 in 295 PA) is also the worst in MLB. He has played well defensively, but he has a strong claim as the worst offensive player in MLB in 2012.

2. Grady Sizemore, CLE - 1 Yr/$5M - no stats in 2012
The Indians gambled $5M on Sizemore during the offseason, but his return from a back injury is still questionable.

3. Ramon Hernandez, COL - 2 Yrs/$6.5M; .193/.236/.336, 4 HR, 18 RBI, -0.5 fWAR, -1.2 bWAR
Hernandez's poor season may be due in part to a hand injury that had him on the DL for over six weeks, but he has had a very disappointing season and has lost the starting job to Wilin Rosario. Trade rumors have him going to the Rays, Nationals, or Mets.

4. Luke Scott, TB - 1 Yr/$6M; .225/.279/.438, 12 HR, 45 RBI, 0.1 fWAR, 0.1 bWAR
Scott has hit for power, but his AVG and OBP are way too low for a starting DH. He went through a horrendous 0 for 41 slump in June/July, but was just starting to hit (15 for 39 in his last 10 games) before going on the DL on July 21. 

5. Carlos Pena, TB - 1 Yr/$7.25M; .191/.322/.349, 14 HR, 41 RBI, 0.6 fWAR, -0.2 bWAR
Pena has drawn some walks (60) and hit for some power, but the overall offensive line is a big disappointment for the Rays. Fangraphs likes Pena's defense at 1B, which pushes him to a positive fWAR.


Top Free Agent Bargains

1. Cody Ross, BOS - 1 Yr/$3M; .261/.336/.535, 16 HR, 50 RBI, 1.9 fWAR, 1.4 bWAR
Ross has only played in 69 games for the Red Sox, but has been very productive when healthy. 

2. Ryan Doumit, MIN - 1 Yr/$3M; .287/.339/.470, 10 HR, 46 RBI,1.2 fWAR,  0.5 bWAR
Doumit has played Catcher, RF, LF, and even 1B for the Twins, as well as DH.

3. Scott Hairston, NYM - 1 Yr/$1M; .250/.293/.500, 12 HR, 37 RBI, 1.1 fWAR, 1.3 bWAR
Hairston is slugging .590 against LHP this year, with 9 HR in 117 AB. 

4. Ryan Ludwick, CIN - 1 Yr/$2.5M; .243/.314/.498, 15 HR, 43 RBI, 0.9 fWAR, 0.2 bWAR
Ludwick has hit 15 HR in limited playing time, ranking 2nd on the Reds in HR (behind Bruce) and 2nd in OPS (behind Votto).

5. Jeff Keppinger, TB - 1 Yr/$1.5M; .322/.394/.427, 3 HR, 19 RBI, 1.5 fWAR, 1.5 bWAR
Keppinger has only been a part-time player, but has hit very well against LHP, going 27 for 60 (.450).

Some other free agent bargains this year include Jerry Hairston Jr., Johnny Gomes, and Norichika Aoki

Free Agents Playing OK, But Not Earning Their High Salaries

1. Albert Pujols, LAA - 10 Yrs/$250M; .277/.344/.488, 18 HR, 61 RBI, 2.0 fWAR, 2.8 bWAR
After a very slow start, Pujols has hit .333/.410/.616 since June 5th.

2. Prince Fielder, DET - 9 Yrs/$214M; .306/.392/.493, 15 HR, 69 RBI, 2.3 fWAR, 1.9 bWAR
Fielder has been pretty good offensively, but his WAR is hurt by his poor defense and baserunning.

3. Aramis Ramirez, MIL - 3 Yrs/$36M; .278/.344/.476, 11 HR, 59 RBI, 2.5 fWAR, 1.5 bWAR
Ramirez has seen all of his key offensive stats drop slightly from 2011, when he hit .306/.351/.510 with the Cubs. 

4. Jose Reyes, MIA - 6 Yrs/$106M; .273/.340/.401, 6 HR, 26 RBI, 2.0 fWAR, 0.9 bWAR
Reyes hit .337 in 2011; this year, his OBP is only .340.

5. Michael Cuddyer, COL - 3 Yrs/$31.5M; .260/.318/.482, 14 HR, 53 RBI, 1.1 fWAR, 0.5 bWAR
Stats haven't really changed in 2012, despite moving to Coors Field.

List of all 2012 Free Agent Signings (Position Players) 

Rank Player Team Pos Age fWAR bWAR Status
1 Josh Willingham MIN OF 32 3.7 2.8 Signed by Twins; 3 years, $21MM
2 Aaron Hill ARI 2B 29 3.5 2.5 Signed by Diamondbacks; 2 years, $11MM
3 Carlos Beltran STL OF 34 2.6 2.5 Signed by Cardinals; 2 years, $26MM
4 Jason Kubel ARI OF 29 2.6 2.2 Signed by Diamondbacks; 2 years, $15MM
5 Albert Pujols LAA 1B 31 2.0 2.8 Signed by Angels; 10 years, $250MM
6 Prince Fielder DET 1B 27 2.3 1.9 Signed by Tigers; 9 years, $214MM
7 Aramis Ramirez MIL 3B 33 2.5 1.5 Signed by Brewers; 3 years, $36MM
8 Jimmy Rollins PHI SS 32 2.6 1.2 Signed by Phillies; 3 years, $33MM
9 Cody Ross BOS OF 30 1.9 1.4 Signed by Red Sox; 1 year, $3MM
10 Jeff Keppinger TB 2B 31 1.5 1.5 Signed by Rays; 1 year, $1.5MM
11 Jose Reyes MIA SS 28 2.0 0.9 Signed by Marlins; 6 years, $106MM
12 Mark Ellis LAD 2B 34 1.5 1.2 Signed by Dodgers; 2 years, $8.75MM
13 Rafael Furcal STL SS 33 1.3 1.4 Signed by Cardinals; 2 years; $14MM
14 Nick Swisher NYY OF 30 1.7 0.9 Signed by Yankees; 1 year, $10.25MM
15 Jonny Gomes OAK OF 30 1.4 1.2 Signed by Athletics; $1M
16 Juan Pierre PHI OF 34 1.0 1.5 Signed by Phils; 1 year, $800K (Minor League)
17 Norichika Aoki* MIL OF 28 1.1 1.3 Signed by Brewers; 2 years, $2.5MM
18 Scott Hairston NYM OF 31 1.1 1.3 Signed by Mets; 1 year, $1MM
19 Jerry Hairston LAD 2B 35 1.5 0.8 Signed by Dodgers; 2 years, $6MM
20 Kelly Shoppach BOS C 31 1.2 1.1 Signed by Red Sox: 1 year, $1.35MM
21 Yoenis Cespedes* OAK OF 26 1.3 1.0 Signed by Athletics; 4 years, $36MM
22 Jamey Carroll MIN 2B 37 0.9 1.1 Signed by Twins; 2 years, $7MM
23 Coco Crisp OAK OF 31 1.1 0.6 Signed by Athletics; 2 years; $13MM
24 Ryan Doumit MIN C 30 1.2 0.5 Signed by Twins; 1 year, $3MM
25 Andruw Jones NYY OF 34 0.9 0.7 Signed by Yankees; 1 year, $2MM
26 Michael Cuddyer COL OF 32 1.1 0.5 Signed by Rockies; 3 years, $31.5 MM
27 Reed Johnson CHC OF 34 0.9 0.7 Signed by Cubs; 1 year, $1.15MM
28 Scott Podsednik PHI OF 35 0.7 0.9 Signed by Phillies; 1 Yr, $0.75M
29 Wilson Betemit BAL 3B 29 0.8 0.5 Signed by Orioles; 2 year, $3.25MM
30 Dewayne Wise NYY OF 33 0.8 0.5 Signed by Yankees; 1 Yr/$0.5M (Minor League)
31 Gerald Laird DET C 31 0.7 0.5 Signed by Tigers; 1 year, $1MM
32 Pedro Ciriaco BOS SS 26 0.5 0.7 Signed by Red Sox; 1 Yr/$0.5M (Minor League)
33 Eric Chavez NYY 3B 33 0.5 0.7 Signed by Yankees; 1 year, $900K
34 John McDonald ARI SS 37 0.6 0.5 Signed by Diamondbacks; 2 years, $3MM
35 Ryan Ludwick CIN OF 33 0.9 0.2 Signed by Reds; 1 year, $2.5MM
36 Mike Baxter NYM OF 27 0.5 0.4 Signed by Mets; 1 Yr/$0.5M (Minor League)
37 David DeJesus CHC OF 31 0.5 0.4 Signed by Cubs; 2 years, $10MM
38 Jim Thome PHI DH 41 0.4 0.5 Signed by Phillies; 1 year, $1.5MM
39 Ryan Theriot SF SS 32 0.6 0.3 Signed by Giants; 1 year, $1.25MM
40 Laynce Nix PHI OF 30 0.5 0.3 Signed by Phillies; 2 years, $2.5MM
41 Jose Molina TB C 36 0.2 0.5 Signed by Rays; 1 year, $1.8MM
42 Adam Kennedy LAD 1B 35 0.5 0.1 Signed by Dodgers; 1 year, $800K
43 Lyle Overbay ARI 1B 34 0.3 0.3 Signed by Diamondbacks; 1 year, $1MM
44 Alex Gonzalez ATL SS 34 0.3 0.1 Signed by Brewers; 1 year, $4MM
45 Travis Buck HOU OF 27 0.3 0.1 Signed by Astros; 1 Yr/$0.5M (Minor League)
46 Jeremy Hermida SD OF 27 0.2 0.2 Signed by Padres; 1 Yr/$0.8M (Minor League)
47 Carlos Pena TB 1B 33 0.6 -0.2 Signed by Rays; 1 year, $7.25MM
48 Willie Bloomquist ARI SS 33 0.7 -0.3 Signed by Diamondbacks; 2 years, $3.8MM
49 Brian Schneider PHI C 34 0.2 0.1 Signed by Phillies; 1 year, $800K
50 Ronny Cedeno NYM SS 28 0.3 0.0 Signed by Mets; 1 Yr/$1.15M (Minor League)
51 Luke Scott TB OF 33 0.1 0.1 Signed by Rays; 1 year, $6MM
52 Nick Punto STL 2B 33 -0.1 0.2 Signed by Red Sox; 2 years, $3MM
53 Bill Hall NYY 3B 31 0.1 0.0 Signed by Yanks; 1 year, $600K (Minor League)
54 Henry Blanco ARI C 40 0.1 0.0 Signed by Diamondbacks; 1 yr, $1.2MM
55 Raul Ibanez NYY OF 39 0.3 -0.3 Signed by Yankees; 1 yr, $1MM
56 Eli Whiteside SF C 32 -0.1 0.0 Signed by Giants; 1 yr, $600K
57 Mark Kotsay SD OF 35 0.0 -0.2 Signed by Padres; 1 yr, $1.25MM
58 Jose Lopez CLE 2B 27 -0.2 0.0 Signed by Indians; 1 yr, $0.9M(Minor League)
59 Koyie Hill STL C 32 -0.1 -0.3 Signed by Cardinals; 1 Yr/$0.5M (Minor League)
60 Kosuke Fukudome CHW OF 34 -0.1 -0.4 Signed by White Sox; 1 year, $1MM
61 Ramon Santiago DET 2B 32 -0.1 -0.4 Signed by Tigers; 2 years, $4MM
62 Clint Barmes PIT SS 32 -0.2 -0.3 Signed by Pirates; 2 years, $10.5MM
63 Matt Treanor LAD C 35 -0.1 -0.4 Signed by Dodgers; 1 year, $850K
64 Ronny Paulino BAL C 29 -0.2 -0.3 Signed by Orioles; 1 Yr/$1M (Minor League)
65 Omar Vizquel TOR 3B 44 -0.3 -0.3 Signed by Blue Jays; 1 year, $0.75M
66 Drew Sutton ATL SS 28 -0.2 -0.4 Signed by Braves; 1 Yr/$0.5M (Minor League)
67 Brooks Conrad MIL 2B 31 -0.2 -0.4 Signed by Brewers; 1 Yr/$0.5M (Minor League)
68 Chris Gimenez SEA C 28 -0.2 -0.4 Signed by Mariners; 1 Yr/$0.5M (Minor League)
69 Rick Ankiel WAS OF 32 0.0 -0.8 Signed by Nats; 1 Yr/$1.25M (Minor League)
70 Mark DeRosa WAS OF 36 -0.2 -0.6 Signed by Nationals; 1 year, $0.8M
71 Chris Snyder HOU C 30 -0.3 -0.6 Signed by Astros; 1 year, $0.75M
72 Rod Barajas PIT C 36 -0.2 -0.7 Signed by Pirates; 1 year, $4MM
73 Yuniesky Betancourt KC SS 29 -0.2 -0.7 Signed by Royals; 1 year, $2MM
74 Casey Kotchman CLE 1B 28 -0.5 -0.4 Signed by Indians; 1 year, $3MM
75 Willie Harris CIN OF 33 -0.4 -0.6 Signed by Reds; 1 yr, $800K (Minor League)
76 Nate McLouth PIT OF 29 -0.6 -0.6 Signed by Pirates; 1 year, $1.75MM
77 Cesar Izturis MIL SS 31 -0.5 -0.7 Signed by Brewers; 1 Yr/$0.9M (Minor League)
78 Juan Rivera LAD OF 33 -0.4 -0.8 Signed by Dodgers; 1 year, $4.5MM
79 Greg Dobbs MIA 3B 33 -0.3 -1.0 Signed by Marlins; 2 years, $3MM
80 Endy Chavez BAL OF 32 -0.8 -0.6 Signed by Orioles; 1 year, $2.5MM
81 Ramon Hernandez COL C 35 -0.5 -1.2 Signed by Rockies; 2 years, $6.5MM
82 Jack Wilson ATL 2B 33 -0.8 -0.9 Signed by Braves; 1 year, $1MM
83 Carlos Guillen SEA 2B 36 DNP DNP Signed by Mariners; Details TBD
84 Andy LaRoche CLE 3B 28 DNP DNP Signed by Indians; Details TBD (Minor League)
85 Corey Patterson MIL OF 32 DNP DNP Signed by Brewers; Details TBD (Minor League)
86 Ryan Spilborghs CLE OF 32 DNP DNP Signed by Indians; Details TBD
87 Dioner Navarro CIN C 27 DNP DNP Signed by Reds; 1 year, $800K (Minor League)
88 Jason Michaels WAS OF 35 DNP DNP Signed by Nats; 1 year, $800K (Minor League)
89 Jorge Cantu LAA 3B 29 DNP DNP Signed by Angels; Details TBD (Minor League)
90 Casey Blake COL 3B 38 DNP DNP Signed by Rockies; 1 year, $2 MM
91 Felix Pie CLE OF 26 DNP DNP Signed by Indians; 2 yrs, $1MM (Minor League)
92 Grady Sizemore CLE OF 29 DNP DNP Signed by Indians; 1 year; $5MM
93 Jason Jaramillo CHC C 29 DNP DNP Signed by Cubs; Details TBD (Minor League)
94 Russell Branyan NYY 1B 35 DNP DNP Signed by Yanks; 1 year, $0.8M (Minor League)
95 Kevin Kouzmanoff KC C 30 DNP DNP Signed by Royals; 1 year, $1MM (Minor League)
96 Conor Jackson TEX 1B 29 DNP DNP Signed by Rangers; Details TBD
97 Mark Teahen WAS 3B 31 DNP DNP Signed by Nats; Details TBD (Minor League)
98 Josh Bard LAD C 33 DNP DNP Signed by Dodgers; 1 yr, $0.8M (Minor League)
99 Brad Hawpe TEX 1B 32 DNP DNP Signed by Rangers; Details TBD (Minor League)
100 Alex Cora STL 3B 36 DNP DNP Signed by Cards; Details TBD (Minor League)