The 2011-2012 offseason in baseball saw some ridiculously good free agent contracts get handed out. For every Heath Bell, there seemed to be three or four C.J. Wilson’s last winter. Even with the great year Wilson is having, he barely cracked my top 10 free agent acquisitions.
So who did? Hard to imagine I could even put together a list without including brilliant signings such as Yu Darvish, Joe Nathan or Mark Buehrle.
Yet…I did. To narrow the field a bit, I made certain groups of players ineligible for the list. Players who re-signed either during the 2011 season or right after to extensions with the same team (i.e. David Ortiz, Yadier Molina, Rafael Furcal, Jimmy Rollins, C.C. Sabathia) are not eligible.
Similarly, players who were free agents for a grand total of 14 minutes before getting their options picked up (i.e. Aaron Hill, Brandon Phillips, Robinson Cano, Ryan Dempster, Edwin Encarnacion), don’t factor in.
Keeping in mind that these are only free agent acquisitions, not trade acquisitions, is your favorite team’s big signing on the list? Read on to find out:
10. Aramis Ramirez, Milwaukee Brewers
While A-Ram hasn’t exactly filled the gigantic shoes left by Prince Fielder in Milwaukee, he’s been a steady presence in the middle of their lineup. So far, he’s hitting .281 with 11 homers and 59 RBI in an underwhelming lineup. The standings clearly reflect how much the Brew Crew misses Fielder though, no matter how well Ramirez plays.
9. C.J. Wilson, Los Angeles Angels
C.J. falls in at number nine, for being the second best pitcher in the best starting rotation in baseball (now that Greinke has been acquired). Though he was a lesser signing in comparison to his new teammate Albert Pujols, he has been a better deal and his 9-7 record with a 2.88 ERA makes that point hard to argue.
8. Chris Capuano, Los Angeles Dodgers
What a pleasant surprise for the equally surprising Dodgers. They signed Capuano on a small, two-year contract to fill a spot in the back of the rotation and to say the results have been exceptional are an understatement. Cappy has been the second best starter on the team behind Clayton Kershaw, putting up a line of 10-6/3.13/1.21 with 113 K’s and just 38 BBs.
7. Hiroki Kuroda, New York Yankees
The man that Capuano essentially replaced in Los Angeles is now wearing pinstripes and making Brian Cashman look like an absolute genius (again). I knew it was a mistake when my Dodgers let Kuroda walk. He has been the most consistent overall pitcher in numbers and health for the Yanks this season, posting a 10-7 record with a 3.34 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.
6. Jonathan Broxton, Kansas City Royals
Another former Dodger, Broxton struggled mightily in his last season and a half in Los Angeles, before getting picked up by K.C. Broxton and his mammoth frame always came with a fragile mind, but he seems to have regained his velocity and command with the Royals. Even though they are losing a lot, Broxton has 23 saves and a 2.27 ERA.
5. Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers
The lesser celebrated major offensive signing of the winter was Fielder, overshadowed by his former NL Central counterpart Albert Pujols. But it’s Fielder who is putting up better all-around numbers and helping to carry a now first-place Detroit Tigers ball club. Fielder is hitting .308 with 15 homers and 70 RBI through 99 games.
What a pick up for the D’backs. Kubel has been the most surprising overall free agent on this list, considering he wasn’t necessarily brought in to be a huge run producer in the middle of the lineup. He was supposed to be a guy who could provide some pop, maybe splitting time in the outfield. Now at .298/22/72 (NL-leading), there’s no doubt he is a starter.
3. Josh Willingham, Minnesota Twins
This off season, I was telling anyone who would listen that Josh Willingham would be the biggest steal of the winter. Nobody wanted him, even though he single-handedly carried a terrible A’s offense in 2011. Now he’s a treasure for the Twins to cherish, as he’s only hit .271 with 25 homers and 72 RBI, including some super clutch hits.
2. Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland Athletics
Plenty of skeptics laughed when Billy Beane came out of nowhere to sign Cespedes last winter to a four-year, $36 million deal. A 17-3 month of July later, led by Cespedes’ bat, and not only are the A’s geniuses for signing him, but they are a legit playoff contender. Largely in thanks to Cespedes’ .301/13/50 line.
1. Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals
Albert Pujols’ replacement has been everything the Cardinals hoped for…and a lot more. In fact, he’s been a lot more than Pujols has been for his new team in Los Angeles. Beltran is absolutely ripping it up for St. Louis, hitting .287 with 22 homers and 71 RBI. For the record, Pujols’ line: .277/18/61. Whoops!
Just missed the cut: Darvish, TEX/Buehrle, MIA/Nathan, TEX/Albert Pujols, LAA/Jose Reyes, MIA/Jerry Hairston, Jr., LAD/Scott Hairston, NYM/Cody Ross, BOS/Wei-Yin Chen, BAL/Bartolo Colon, OAK/Aaron Harang, LAD/Ben Sheets, ATL/Roy Oswalt, TEX/Jonathan Papelbon, PHI/Michael Cuddyer, COL
– Jeremy (@Jamblinman)