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)
Yesterday, I gave you my projected A.L. All-Star roster that can be found down below this post. Today with the final voting update being released for the National League, let’s see if I can figure out what the N.L. roster will look like. I’m really glad that Tony LaRussa retired and has a ton of time on his hands to figure out the roster, because this thing is pretty tough. Especially trying to put a Padres representative on the team.
Starter: Buster Posey, Giants
Reserves: Yadier Molina, Cardinals and Carlos Ruiz, Phillies
This will be a close battle all the way to the end as Molina may still end up starting the game. Posey could be in danger of not making the game if not named the starter as Molina and Ruiz are the two clear-cut top catchers this season. LaRussa could decide that two catchers are enough and go with an extra back-up somewhere else.
Starter: Joey Votto, Reds
Reserve: Martin Prado, Braves
This is where I had to get creative. No offensive position has gone without a backup since Derrek Lee in 2005 for the N.L. In that game, Morgan Ensberg who was designated as a 3B moved over to replace Lee in the game. In 2002, Alfonso Soriano was the only 2B for the American League and Omar Vizquel switched over from SS to play 2B. There is precedent to not have a backup 1B and I don’t think there should be. The only one I can make a case for is the Diamondbacks Paul Goldschmidt, but it would be bad if he becomes Arizona’s lone representative over a deserving Wade Miley. Prado is a versatile player that plays outfield, third base, and first base for the Braves. He’s a deserving All-Star, but N.L. outfield is so deep (we’ll get to that soon) that this is a way to get Prado on the team. I’m still figuring out why there are 873,526 wasted votes on Ryan Howard who hasn’t played this season.
Starter: Dan Uggla, Braves
Reserve: Jose Altuve, Astros
Uggla has fallen off hitting just .179 in the month of June, but Braves fans have continued to vote for him. He has a healthy lead on Brandon Phillips going into the final stage of voting. Altuve has been a find for the Astros hitting over .300 and being 5th in the league in hits. Phillips gets bumped to the Final Vote as the only infielder represented.
Starter: Rafael Furcal, Cardinals
Reserve: Starlin Castro, Cubs
The injury woes of Troy Tulowitzki will allow Furcal to make his 3rd All-Star team in 13 seasons and it’s deserved. Furcal looked done after last season, but has bounced back to hit .287 and be solid atop the Cardinals lineup. Castro is the Cubs lone representative for the 2nd straight year. Pretty impressive for a 22 year-old.
Starter: David Wright, Mets
Reserves: Chipper Jones, Braves and David Freese, Cardinals
I’ve made it clear previously that I think that Chipper Jones should be starting the All-Star Game in his final season. Here’s my solution. The National League will need a designated hitter, so who better than Chipper Jones? He could have his moment like Cal Ripken did in 2001 and David Wright still gets to start at 3B like he deserves. I’m sure Chipper’s knees would also appreciate not having to play the field. Freese has been solid for the Cardinals as he’s top 10 in the league in HR’s and RBI. I’m sure LaRussa will bring him along after his postseason heroics in 2011.
Starters: Matt Kemp, Dodgers, Carlos Beltran, Cardinals, and Ryan Braun, Brewers
Reserves: Melky Cabrera, Giants, Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies, Andrew McCutchen, Pirates, Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins and Andre Ethier, Dodgers
This is by far the deepest position in all of the Majors. Not making the team includes Michael Bourn, Matt Holliday and Hunter Pence who have all been fantastic. Mike Trout was able to make my A.L. squad, but the deepness at the position here blocks Bryce Harper from making the initial squad at 19 years old. There is still a tight battle for the final starting spot between Braun and Cabrera, but both will make the team. Gonzalez and Stanton are being snubbed by voters, but will be the solo representatives for the Rockies and Marlins respectively. Ethier sneaks in the final outfield spot as he’s helped keep the Dodgers afloat in Matt Kemp’s absence. Kemp’s injury will hopefully open up an extra spot for Bourn, Holliday, or Pence.
Starter: R.A. Dickey, Mets
Reserves: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals, Matt Cain, Giants, Gio Gonzalez, Nationals, Wade Miley, Diamondbacks, Johnny Cueto, Reds, James McDonald, Pirates, Lance Lynn, Cardinals, Chris Capuano, Dodgers, and Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
The battle to be the starting pitcher couldn’t be any closer between Dickey, Strasburg, and Cain. I just think that Dickey is such a wonderful story that it would be amazing to have him start the game, so I gave him the edge. My American League roster had eight starters, but there are so many options in the N.L. that I upped it to ten. Even that wasn’t enough as Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke get snubbed. I believe that LaRussa will err on the side of the Cardinals and take Lance Lynn for the last pitching spot. Wade Miley is rightfully Arizona’s only representative.
Reserves: Craig Kimbrel, Braves, Aroldis Chapman, Reds, and Huston Street, Padres
Kimbrel has been lights out all season. Chapman had been perfect up until recently, but they are the two fireballers that the senior circuit needs to close out the game. Street goes to the game because I couldn’t figure out another way to get a Padre on the roster. I couldn’t have Carlos Quentin take a spot from one of the outfielders, Chase Headley over David Freese, or have Yonder Alonso be the back-up 1B. Street missed time with an injury, but has a 1.50 ERA and 0.78 ERA when healthy this season.
Michael Bourn, Braves, Cole Hamels, Phillies, Brandon Phillips, Reds, Matt Holliday, Cardinals, and Bryce Harper, Nationals
When I originally wrote out my roster Harper making the Final Vote didn’t even cross my mind. Then I had an epiphany, there is no way MLB doesn’t put Harper in, just to stir up some excitement for it. There are great voting fan bases represented in this final vote and I sadly couldn’t put in Zack Greinke. Greinke and Hamels will hopefully make the team on the “pitcher pitching Sunday” rule. Bourn has been wonderful leading off the Braves lineup and is among the league leaders in WAR. Brandon Phillips might make the All-Star game as a starter still, but him being in the Final Vote let’s him use his social media skills to the fullest.
Dodgers and Braves-4
Giants and Reds-3
Mets, Nationals, and Pirates-2
Diamondbacks, Padres, Rockies, Cubs, Brewers, Astros, Phillies, and Marlins-1
Unlike the American League, I feel like there are a ton of snubs on my National League team. Joel Hanrahan, Tyler Clippard, Kenley Jansen, Zack Greinke, Hunter Pence, Ryan Vogelsong, and Jed Lowrie just to name a few. Who would make your National League roster? Let me know in the comments!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)