FA haul for Mets among biggest ever

January 10th, 2023

Over the years, we’ve seen a number of clubs go all out in free agency, signing multiple elite free agents in a single offseason. But few have been as aggressive as the Mets under owner Steve Cohen.

One year after signing Max Scherzer, Starling Marte, Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar and Adam Ottavino, the Mets outdid themselves in the 2022-23 offseason.

Justin Verlander, Edwin Díaz, Brandon Nimmo, Kodai Senga, José Quintana and David Robertson are among the players New York has added. The total outlay for Cohen? Nearly $500 million.

Here's a closer look at the Mets' moves as well as some other big free-agent splashes from past offseasons, starting with the most recent.

2022-23 Mets: Brandon Nimmo, Edwin Díaz, Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga, José Quintana, Adam Ottavino, David Robertson, Omar Narváez
Nimmo: 8 years, $162 million
Díaz: 5 years, $102 million
Verlander: 2 years, $86.7 million (with 2025 vesting option)
Senga: 5 years, $75 million
Quintana: 2 years, $26 million
Ottavino: 1 year, $14.5 million (with 2024 player option)
Robertson: 1 years, $10 million

Narváez: 1 year, $8 million (with 2024 player option)

The Mets’ $102 million deal with Díaz at the start of the offseason set a record for the richest deal signed by a reliever in MLB history. It was only the beginning, however, as New York filled out its roster with a number of splashy signings.

The Mets responded to the loss of longtime ace Jacob deGrom to the Rangers by reaching a deal with Verlander, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, several days later. The club soon brought back its starting center fielder and leadoff hitter, Nimmo, on an eight-year contract and bolstered its rotation with Senga, one of the best pitchers in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, and Quintana, an 11-year MLB veteran who posted a 2.93 ERA in 2022.

Carlos Correa was nearly the cherry on top of the Mets' monstrous spending spree, but the two sides were unable to finalize a 12-year, $315 million agreement due to a concern regarding Correa's medicals.

2021-22 Rangers: Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Jon Gray
Seager: 10 years, $325 million
Semien: 7 years, $175 million
Gray: 4 years, $56 million

After losing 102 games and missing the postseason for the fifth straight year, the Rangers accelerated their rebuild in a big way by landing not one but two members of this offseason's star-studded shortstop class. With Seager in the fold, Texas will likely keep Semien at second base. The infielder shifted from short to second after joining the Blue Jays last offseason and went on to win a Gold Glove Award. The Rangers also bolstered their rotation with the addition of Gray and reached a one-year deal with veteran outfielder Kole Calhoun.

2020-21 Blue Jays: George Springer, Marcus Semien, Robbie Ray and Kirby Yates
Springer: 6 years, $150 million
Semien: 1 year, $18 million
Ray: 1 year, $8 million
Yates: 1 year, $5.5 million

While Toronto narrowly missed the postseason in 2021, the club's free-agent haul from the previous offseason was hardly to blame. The Blue Jays certainly would have liked to see George Springer play more than 78 games after signing him to the largest contract in franchise history, but the center fielder at least provided Toronto with 22 homers, 50 RBIs and a .907 OPS when he wasn't sidelined due to injuries.

The Jays took a chance on Semien and Ray after both players struggled during the shortened 2020 season, and they turned out to be two of the best free-agent additions any team made last offseason. Semien played all 162 games, socked 45 homers -- a record for a primary second baseman -- and posted an .873 OPS with 7.1 wins above replacement (per Baseball-Reference), while Ray led the AL in ERA (2.84), WHIP (1.04), innings (193 1/3) and strikeouts (248).

The only move of the four that didn't work out was signing Yates, as he underwent Tommy John surgery before Opening Day and never threw a pitch for Toronto.

2018-19 Philies: Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson
Harper: 13 years, $330 million
McCutchen: 3 years, $50 million
Robertson: 2 years, $23 million

Harper's arrival in Philadelphia was probably one of the most hyped debuts ever. The outfielder has been excellent during his three seasons with the Phillies, but the club hasn't reached the postseason since they signed him.

Maybe things would have been different in 2019 if McCutchen and Robertson didn't get hurt. The former NL MVP McCutchen only played 59 games before tearing his left ACL, posting an .834 OPS and hitting 10 homers in those 59 games. Robertson was shut down and needed Tommy John surgery after pitching just seven games, the first time in a decade that the reliever didn't reach 60 appearances.

2014-15 Red Sox: Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval
Sandoval: 5 years, $95 million
Ramirez: 4 years, $88 million

Sandoval was an expensive mistake for the Red Sox. He was a big part of the Giants' World Series runs in 2012 and '14 and was coming off a stellar Fall Classic, but everything went downhill fast in Boston. Sandoval struggled in 2015, missed nearly all of '16 due to left shoulder surgery, struggled again in '17 and was finally released. The Red Sox still owed him nearly $50 million at the time. Sandoval ended up returning to the Giants and actually had an unexpected resurgence in 2019.

Ramirez gave the Red Sox one strong season in 2016, when he hit .286 with 30 home runs and 111 RBIs. He was also excellent in the postseason the next year, hitting .571 with a 1.314 OPS in the 2017 ALDS against the Astros. But after his struggles at the plate early in 2018, he, too, was designated for assignment and then released. The Indians picked Hanley up for the start of 2019, and he hit a couple of homers, but that stint lasted only 16 games and he hasn't found a new MLB home since.

2013-14 Yankees: Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Masahiro Tanaka
Tanaka: 7 years, $155 million
Ellsbury: 7 years, $153 million
McCann: 5 years, $85 million

The Yankees entered the 2013-14 offseason having just missed the playoffs for only the second time in the Wild Card era. The rival Red Sox had just won the World Series. So the Bronx Bombers went out and made three huge free-agent signings. They poached Ellsbury from the Sox, coaxed McCann away from Atlanta and came away with the prize of the offseason when Tanaka jumped to the big leagues from Japan.

That troika didn't translate to a postseason berth in 2014, but the Yankees made the playoffs in four of the next five years, with Tanaka being especially strong in the postseason. Aside from Tanaka, though, the Yankees' return to contention was much more a product of their new wave of young talent than their big-spending free agency in the winter of 2013. Ellsbury's contract turned out to be an albatross. Plagued by injuries and poor performance, Ellsbury was released by the Yankees with a year and $26 million remaining on his deal.

2011-12 Angels: Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson
Pujols: 10 years, $240 million
Wilson: 5 years, $77.5 million

With a new GM in Jerry Dipoto entering the 2011-12 offseason, the Halos went all-in and pulled off a stunning pair of signings. In a whirlwind 48 hours at the end of the Winter Meetings, the Angels landed Pujols with one of the largest free-agent contracts in MLB history (only exceeded, at the time, by A-Rod's two deals with the Yankees), then got the left-hander Wilson.

In 10 seasons since, the Angels have made the playoffs only once (in 2014), even with Mike Trout (and later Shohei Ohtani). Pujols recorded 1,180 hits and 222 homers for the Angels during the contract, with two 30-homer seasons, a 40-homer season and several big milestones reached, but he wasn't the same player he was in St. Louis.

2011-12 Marlins: José Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell
Reyes: 6 years, $106 million
Buehrle: 4 years, $58 million
Bell: 3 years, $27 million

The other surprise big spenders in the 2011-12 offseason? The Marlins, who snapped up Reyes, Buehrle and Bell in an attempt to build a contender in the NL East. They made sure they got their guys -- a shortstop/leadoff man, a rotation anchor and a closer -- committing nearly $200 million to the three players.

Things didn't go according to plan. The Marlins won just 69 games to finish last in the East for a second straight season, with a worse record than the previous year. And then they broke it all up. Just a year after their signings -- and despite assurances to Reyes and Buehrle that they wouldn't be traded -- the Marlins traded both to the Blue Jays in a 12-player blockbuster.

2008-09 Yankees: CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, A.J. Burnett
Teixeira: 8 years, $180 million
Sabathia: 7 years, $161 million
Burnett: 5 years, $82.5 million

Unlike the Yankees' trio of free-agent signings in 2013, the three signings they made following the 2008 season paid off immediately. Teixeira, Sabathia and Burnett didn't come cheap, but that $400 million-plus produced a World Series title in 2009 -- the Yankees' 27th championship, and first since 2000. And Sabathia went on to pitch over a decade in pinstripes, retiring after the 2019 season as a potential Hall of Famer and one of the more beloved Yankees in recent history.

CC was a workhorse in that first World Series-winning season in New York, going 19-8 with a 3.37 ERA over 230 innings. He made five straight quality starts in the postseason, with a 1.98 ERA overall, and was the ALCS MVP. Teixeira hit .292 with an AL-leading 39 homers and 122 RBIs to finish as runner-up for AL MVP, and he hit a couple of big home runs in the playoffs. Burnett wasn't on the superstar level, but he was solid in the rotation and pitched well in some playoff games, including winning Game 2 of the World Series against the Phillies.

2004-05 Mets: Carlos Beltrán, Pedro Martínez
Beltrán: 7 years, $119 million
Martínez: 4 years, $53 million

The Mets' rise to contention started here. Following a 2004 season that saw David Wright and José Reyes together in the lineup for the first time, the Mets went out and got a key pair of veterans to complement their young core.

In 2005, New York's turnaround began, as they improved from 71-91 to 83-79. A year later, they were a powerhouse. Beltrán helped lead the 2006 Mets to the NL's best record, hitting 41 home runs, winning a Gold Glove Award in center field and finishing fourth in the NL MVP voting. The Mets won the NL East and were a game away from the World Series before falling to the Cardinals in Game 7 of the NLCS.

2003-04 Angels: Bartolo Colón, Vladimir Guerrero
Guerrero: 5 years, $70 million
Colón: 4 years, $51 million

Guerrero is probably the best free-agent signing in Angels history. After eight seasons in Montreal, the 29-year-old slugger came to Southern California and the AL and proceeded to win MVP in his first season with the Angels. Guerrero hit 39 home runs and drove in 126 runs. In his first five seasons in Anaheim, he averaged 32 homers and 113 RBIs, and he was a four-time All-Star. He even entered the Hall of Fame as an Angel.

The Colón signing paid off, too. He won 18 games in 2004 and then followed it up with a brilliant 2005 -- he went 21-8 with a 3.48 ERA over 222 2/3 innings and won the AL Cy Young Award. The Angels made the playoffs in both of those seasons. Right shoulder issues limited Colón for the rest of his Angels tenure, but he made his mark.

2000-01 Rockies: Mike Hampton, Denny Neagle
Hampton: 8 years, $121 million
Neagle: 5 years, $51 million

Hampton and Neagle were disastrous signings. Hampton's behemoth deal was the largest in MLB history at the time. But after an excellent run with the Mets, the left-hander lasted just two seasons in Colorado. He posted a 5.41 ERA in 2001 (despite making the All-Star team after a solid first half) and a 6.15 ERA in '02 before the Rockies unloaded him to the Marlins in a trade.

Neagle wasn't as expensive, but his contract worked out just as poorly. From 2001-03, he had ERAs of 5.38, 5.26 and 7.90, respectively. He missed all of 2004 due to elbow surgery. And after legal trouble, the Rockies terminated the remainder of his contract. He didn't pitch in the Majors again.

1998-99 D-backs: Randy Johnson, Steve Finley
Johnson: 4 years, $53 million
Finley: 4 years, $21.5 million

Johnson might be the best free-agent signing in MLB history. The D-backs signed the Big Unit to a four-year deal -- and he won the NL Cy Young Award in all of those four seasons. Over the four years covered by that initial deal, Johnson went 81-27 with a 2.48 ERA and 1,417 strikeouts in 1,030 innings. Oh, and he led the D-backs to the 2001 World Series title in one of the most thrilling Fall Classics ever played. Johnson shared World Series MVP honors with co-ace Curt Schilling after beating the Yankees in Game 2 and Game 6 as a starter and picking up the win in relief in Game 7 on zero days' rest.

Finley was also a quality signing. The rangy center fielder won Gold Glove Awards in both of his first two seasons in Arizona and earned an All-Star nod in 2000. He also performed well offensively, with an .851 OPS in his six seasons with the D-backs, including two 20-homer seasons and two 30-homer seasons.

1996-97 Marlins: Moises Alou, Bobby Bonilla, Alex Fernandez
Fernandez: 5 years, $35 million
Alou: 5 years, $25 million
Bonilla: 4 years, $23.3 million

The Marlins shocked the baseball world when they won the 1997 World Series in just their fifth year of existence, after four straight losing seasons. A slate of key free-agent signings helped them do it. Fernandez went 17-12 with a 3.59 ERA over 220 2/3 innings in 1997, before a shoulder injury kept him out of the World Series. Alou hit .292/.373/.493 with 23 home runs and 115 RBIs, and he also hit three homers and had a 1.101 OPS against the Indians in the Fall Classic. And Bonilla hit .297/.378/.468 with 17 homers and 96 RBIs, and hit a big home run in the seventh inning of Game 7 of the World Series. Both Alou and Bonilla were traded in the teardown that followed the Marlins' championship, but they made their one year in Florida count.

1979-80 Astros: Nolan Ryan, Joe Morgan
Ryan: 4 years, $4.5 million
Morgan: Details not available

The pair of future Hall of Famers came to an Astros team that had never made the postseason in 18 seasons of existence. In Ryan and Morgan's first year with the club, they won the NL West before falling to the Phillies in extra innings in a winner-take-all Game 5 of the NLCS.

Morgan, who had played his first nine seasons in Houston before he went to the Reds, only spent one year with the Astros in his return. But he was still an effective player at age 36, with a .367 on-base percentage, 11 home runs and 24 stolen bases. Ryan's contract made him MLB's first million-dollar man, and he was one of the best signings the Astros ever made. Ryan led the Houston rotation for close to a decade, including playoff appearances in 1980, '81 and '86, two All-Star selections, two ERA titles and two strikeout titles.

1976-77 Angels: Bobby Grich, Don Baylor
1976-77 Padres: Gene Tenace, Rollie Fingers
1976-77 Yankees: Reggie Jackson, Don Gullett

The first year of MLB free agency saw a number of stars jump from one team to another, and the Angels, Padres and Yankees all made big splashes by landing more than one.

The Angels got Grich to leave Baltimore and Baylor to leave Oakland, and both players flourished with their new team. Grich was a three-time All-Star in a decade with the Angels, and Baylor was the 1979 AL MVP.

The Padres got a three-time World Series champion backstop in Tenace and a future Hall of Fame closer in Fingers, who both left the A's for San Diego. Tenace was an on-base machine in his four seasons with the Padres, posting an on-base percentage of .403 and leading the Majors with 125 walks in his first year with the team. Fingers excelled in four seasons in the Padres bullpen, leading the Majors in saves back-to-back years in 1977 (35) and '78 (37).

Gullett jumped from the Reds to the Yankees after having just won back-to-back World Series -- the second of which came against the Bronx Bombers. But the real prize was Jackson. Mr. October was born in 1977, when Jackson's World Series heroics against the Dodgers made him an instant postseason legend. He helped lead New York to a second straight title in '78.