CHICAGO -- Before bidding adieu to the Hot Stove season, we asked our 30 beat reporters to look back at their club's past and answer the following question: Who is the best free-agent signing in the team's history?We narrowed the choices with the following parameters: The signings had to be
CHICAGO -- Before bidding adieu to the Hot Stove season, we asked our 30 beat reporters to look back at their club's past and answer the following question: Who is the best free-agent signing in the team's history?
We narrowed the choices with the following parameters: The signings had to be multiyear contracts, to exclude fluky one-year deals and to focus on players who got real commitments. And contract extensions don't count. Only instances when every team in the league had a chance to bid on the player were allowed, including international free agents who received Major League contracts.
Carlton Fisk was inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame in 2000.
His No. 72 was retired by the White Sox in 1997 and his statue, unveiled in 2005, lives on amid the Guaranteed Rate Field concourse. But Fisk now has another honor to add to his extensive and storied resume. The catcher should be considered the top free-agent signing in the history of the franchise.
Fisk came to the White Sox prior to the 1981 season on a five-year deal worth $2.9 million. The move ended his highly successful tenure with the Red Sox from 1969-80, including a playoff appearance in 1975 that featured Fisk's memorable game-winning home run to lead off the 12th inning of Game 6 of the World Series against the Big Red Machine, which the catcher historically waved fair.
Fisk's deal came months after Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn purchased the team, immediately changing the culture of a franchise completely absent from the postseason since 1959. With Fisk guiding a pitching staff that hurled 35 complete games and with a .289 average, 26 homers and 86 RBIs, the veteran backstop was part of the White Sox first American League West title in '83.
The most productive season for Fisk arguably came in 1985 when he launched a career-high 37 homers with a career-high 107 RBIs. He matched a career-best with 17 stolen bases. From 1981-93, when Fisk departed from the team and baseball at 45, he accounted for a total of 28.8 bWAR, an average of 2.2 per season.
Jermaine Dye also merits consideration in this conversation after coming to the White Sox on a two-year, $10.15 million contract prior to the 2005 season with a club option for '07. The story goes that Dye was offered more money by another team as he was taking his physical with the White Sox but honored his original commitment.
Dye earned Most Valuable Player honors in the 2005 World Series sweep of the Astros, marking the franchise's lone championship since 1917. Dye also turned in one of the best offensive seasons in White Sox history in '06 with a .318 average, 1.006 OPS, 44 homers, 120 RBIs and a 4.6 bWAR.
The inclusion of Dye basically represents the entire 2005 team, a group-effort title squad that featured several free agents, including catcher A.J. Pierzynski, second baseman Tadahito Iguchi, reliever Dustin Hermanson and starter Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez.
• Jose Quintana Signed as a free agent in November 2011, Quintana has become one of the steadiest starters in baseball. The southpaw currently is working under a five-year, $21 million deal, with club options for '19 and '20, but he could net the White Sox a major prospect haul if he's traded during this current rebuild.
• Many forces at play in Hahn's Quintana plans
• Paul Konerko Konerko joined the White Sox via trade in 1999, but one of his major accomplishments was playing 16 years with the South Siders. He could have left via free agency in 2005, '10 and '13, but he always came back to Chicago.
• Jose Abreu The Cuban native's six-year, $68 million deal stands as the highest total ever given out by the White Sox. Abreu has at least 25 home runs, 100 RBIs and a .290 average in each of his first three seasons.
• Albert Belle Belle became Major League Baseball's first free agent to reach the $10 million-per-year plateau by agreeing to a five-year, $58 million deal in 1996. Belle turned in a 49-homer, 48-double effort in '98 with 152 RBIs, an AL-best 1.055 OPS and 172 OPS+.
Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.