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The most significant MLB signings and trades of 2016

  • The most significant MLB signings and trades of 2016

Five weeks in. It's time for Part 2 of our annual look at another wacky baseball offseason. As always, it's a fascinating Best and Worst of the Offseason poll, as voted by 35 baseball execs.

Remember: As ESPN pointed out, not everybody voted on every category. Not everybody voted for the same number of teams or players in every category. All tweets and emails from statisticians questioning their methodology were overlooked and unanswered. 

Best free-agent signings

Zack Greinke - Diamondbacks

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David Price - Red Sox

Howie Kendrick - Dodgers 

John Lackey - Cubs

Ben Zobrist - Cubs

Alex Gordon - Royals

Yoenis Cespedes - Mets

Justin Upton - Tigers

It was like a Free Agent Mega-Mart. The array of players who got multiple votes was an excellent reminder of the depth and quality in that market. Beyond the group listed, 17 other players got votes in the Best Signing category.

There was still the usual grumbling about the years and dollars for the two aces at the top of these charts. But "when you are Boston, you go for it, and Price was the best pitcher out there”.  Then there's Greinke, who "changes the face of the Diamondbacks”.

But there was nothing surprising in seeing those two names rake in the votes. Seeing Kendrick and Zobrist as the top two position players was interesting though! Kendrick was such a good buy (at two years, $20 million) that one exec quipped: "Not sure where he will play, but at that price, who cares?" He also said of Zobrist: "Perfect NL player. Great on a young club. Perfect fit at the perfect time."

Worst free-agent signings

Ian Kennedy - Royals

Jason Heyward - Cubs

Ryan Madson - A's

Johnny Cueto - Giants

Chris Davis - Orioles

Jeff Samardzija - Giants

Mike Pelfrey - Tigers

Of all the categories, none can top this one when it comes to free-for-alls. 26 players got at least one vote. A dozen got multiple votes. There were special votes for "anyone who got an opt-out" and "any pitcher over five years." Most absurd of all? 13 players got votes for both "best" and "worst" signing! So maybe the most notable were the guys on this leaderboard who landed on nobody's "best" list: Kennedy, Samardzija and Pelfrey. And the two players who got at least three votes for best and worst signing were both Tigers: Upton and Jordan Zimmermann.

Most outrageous contracts

Chris Davis - Orioles

Jason Heyward - Cubs

Zack Greinke - Diamondbacks

David Price - Red Sox

 Ian Kennedy - Royals

Johnny Cueto - Giants

Remember that "worst signing" and "most outrageous contract" are two different phenomena. The outrage here isn't really about the player, or the fit. It's about the length of, and dollars, in the contract. So that's why Greinke and Price are leading the "Best Signing" and "Most Outrageous Contract" standings.

Nobody is arguing they're not great pitchers. They're just really unlikely to still be worth a million bucks a start in their final years. However, it will make them feel better knowing 12 other players showed up in the "Best Signing" and "Most Outrageous" sections of this ballot. 

A brief word on Davis (seven years and $161 million from the Orioles) and Heyward (eight years and $184 million - one of the stunners of the offseason). No team other than the Orioles came even close to offering Davis seven years.

The best way to sum up Heyward: He's one of those guys whose skill set will never appeal to everybody. As one NL exec said, “I just don't see seven years for guys like that. Nice player, but not that kind of player."

Best trades

Dansby Swanson, etc. to Braves

 Aroldis Chapman to Yankees

Todd Frazier to White Sox

Corey Dickerson to Rays

What a winter. Even with all those free agents running around, there were a mind-blowing number of trades this offseason.

Would you believe there were votes for 27 different trade outcomes? That's because, with the exception of the Chapman, Frazier and Dickerson deals, the voters lined up on just about every possible side of every possible trade. If there was a category for deals that work for both teams, voters ranked them this way: 1) Kimbrel from San Diego to Boston (for four prospects), 2) Ken Giles from Philadelphia to Houston (for five arms), 3) Starlin Castro from the North Side of Chicago to the Bronx (for Adam Warren). But hey, that's the way trades are supposed to work, right? 

Best free agents signed to one-year contracts:

Doug Fister - Astros

Hisashi Iwakuma - Mariners

Bartolo Colon - Mets

Rich Hill - A's

Alexei Ramirez - Padres

Steve Pearce - Rays

Yoenis Cespedes – Mets (Those who cast this vote were highly amused by it because Cespedes signed a three-year deal. He's  expected to opt out after one.)

Best free agents, $3 million and under

Mat Latos - White Sox

Chris Carter - Brewers

Jim Johnson - Braves

Best free agents signed to minor league deals:

Dillon Gee - Royals

Bronson Arroyo - Nationals

Travis Snider - Royals

Craig Stammen - Indians

There is such thing as a free-agent bargain bin! 67 players got a vote in one of these three categories. How fun was that list of 67 players? Arroyo got six votes after a year in which he accumulated more teams (three) than pitches thrown (zero). Tim Federowicz (Cubs) got a vote after hitting .179 in Triple-A. And a .153/.217/.247 slash line for the Braves and Mets didn't stop Ric Young Jr. (Brewers) from getting a vote. 

Least recognizable teams

Braves, Brewers, Phillies

This category was purely for entertainment. 


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