25 July 2012
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)
|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)|