Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Sign and shine! 30 all-time free-agent gems

MLB.com

As Hot Stove season enters its final weeks, each team is doing all it can to put its best version on the field in 2017. But how do the moves they made this offseason compare to the best they've ever made?

MLB.com asked its 30 beat reporters to look back at each club's past and identify the best free-agent signing in team history. We narrowed the choices with the following parameters: The signings had to be multiyear contracts -- excluding fluky one-year deals -- and 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.

As Hot Stove season enters its final weeks, each team is doing all it can to put its best version on the field in 2017. But how do the moves they made this offseason compare to the best they've ever made?

MLB.com asked its 30 beat reporters to look back at each club's past and identify the best free-agent signing in team history. We narrowed the choices with the following parameters: The signings had to be multiyear contracts -- excluding fluky one-year deals -- and 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.

Hot Stove Tracker

After careful consideration, our reporters have spoken. Here are the signings they identified as the biggest in history:

Angels: Vladimir Guerrero came just shy of becoming a first-ballot Hall of Famer this year, but Vlad's five-year, $70 million deal in '04 was second to none for the Halos. More >

Astros: All-time strikeout king Nolan Ryan sent shockwaves through baseball when he became the game's first $1 million-a-year player. More >

Athletics: Dave Henderson is remembered most for his performance with the Red Sox in the 1986 postseason. But the power he gave the A's later that decade will always be remembered by Bay Area fans. More >

Blue Jays: Roger Clemens arrived in Toronto with a chip on his shoulder, and he used that motivation to record two of the greatest single-season pitching performances in franchise history. More >

Video: TEX@TOR: Clemens fans 14 in a two-hit shutout

Braves: In 1992, Greg Maddux was willing to turn down more money from the Yankees to join a budding dynasty in Atlanta. The Braves were more than willing to take advantage. More >

Brewers: Larry Hisle didn't ultimately provide the value his six-year, $3.155 million deal prescribed, but it helped turned the Brewers into winners nonetheless. More >

Cardinals: Matt Holliday remains the only player in Cardinals history to sign a free-agent deal worth more than $100 million. What's more remarkable is that he lived up to the payday. More >

Video: Must C Curtains: Holliday crushes pinch-hit home run

Cubs: The Cubs signed Moises Alou in December 2001, hoping the 35-year-old slugger could provide some punch and complement Sammy Sosa. Alou did that and more, helping Chicago come within five outs of the '03 World Series. More >

D-backs: Four straight Cy Young Awards and one of the most dominant World Series performances in history makes Randy Johnson an easy choice for Arizona's best free-agent signing. More >

Dodgers: Kirk Gibson turned around the 1988 World Series with his iconic home run, but in reality he turned around the franchise when he signed earlier that year. More >

Giants: The issue isn't whether Barry Bonds is the franchise's best free-agent signee ever. It's whether he's the best free-agent signee in the annals of professional sports, period. More >

Video: Bonds holds all-time record for home runs with 762

Indians: Roberto Alomar chose to sign with Cleveland before the '99 season, and, alongside Omar Vizquel, he went on to form one of history's greatest double-play combinations. More >

Mariners: Ichiro Suzuki arrived as an enigma from Japan, and went on to rewrite Seattle's record books. More >

Marlins: Kevin Brown's edge helped transform the Marlins from new kids on the block to World Series champions. More >

Mets: Mike Piazza enjoyed some early success after he was traded to Queens midway through the '98 season, but he really won over Mets fans after signing with the team that winter. More >

Nationals: Jayson Werth's $126 million contract with Washington got off to a rocky start, but now it's hard to imagine where the Nationals would be without him. More >

Video: Must C Combo: Werth hits homer, robs homer vs. Twins

Orioles: When Baltimore's negotiations with Will Clark fell through in the winter of '93, the Orioles more than made up the difference when they signed another first baseman: Rafael Palmeiro. More >

Padres: The Padres had most of the pieces in place following the '83 season. Signing Goose Gossage put them over the hump and on to their first World Series. More >

Phillies: All-time hit king Pete Rose was the Phillies' missing ingredient to push through to their first World Series in 30 years. More >

Pirates: Russell Martin's 2012 deal with the Pirates raised some initial questions, but leading Pittsburgh back to the postseason silenced the critics. More >

Video: PIT@DET: Martin doubles in Harrison for 1,000th hit

Rangers: At 42, Ryan came to Arlington hoping to pitch one more season. He ended up staying for five, becoming a Rangers legend in the process. More >

Rays: Fernando Rodney was coming off two bad seasons with the Angels when he inked a one-year deal with the Rays prior to '12. He returned to his All-Star caliber -- and more -- in Tampa Bay. More >

Red Sox: It was December 2000 and the Red Sox, in the midst of the Bambino Curse, had just watched the Yankees win another World Series. Manny Ramirez's $160 million contract that winter helped completely turn around Boston's fortunes. More >

Reds: The Big Red Machine was late to the free-agent party, but its first signing -- Dave Parker in 1983 -- proved to be Cincinnati's best. More >

Rockies: Rockies general manager Bob Gebhard watched Larry Walker grow into an All-Star with the Expos. When Walker became a free agent in '95, Gebhard wasn't going to miss his opportunity to grab him. More >

Royals: After coming close to a World Series championship in 2014, Kendrys Morales provided the last bit of pop that Kansas City needed. More >

Video: HOU@KC Gm5: Morales demolishes a 443-foot home run

Tigers: Without Ivan Rodriguez, the Tigers might have never climbed from the very bottom of baseball to a big-spending, perennial contender. More >

Twins: Paul Molitor's two-year, $5.5 million deal with Minnesota before the 1996 season is certainly not the biggest contract in the Twins' history, but the St. Paul native parlayed that deal into a year for the ages. More >

White Sox: Carlton Fisk's five-year deal with the White Sox, coinciding with Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn's purchase of the team, completely turned around the franchise's culture in '81. More >

Yankees: Brian Cashman believes Orlando Hernandez is the best investment he's made as the Yankees general manager, and it's hard to disagree when looking back at El Duque's performance in the biggest moments. More >

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.