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Most monumental free-agent decisions in MLB history

MLB.com @MannyOnMLB

Since the first free-agent signing of the modern era back in 1974, there have been several free-agent deals that shook the baseball world and realigned power across the Majors. Here's a look at several moves that changed the landscape of baseball, and in some cases were downright shocking:

2013-14: Robinson Cano signs with Mariners
Cano had been a Yankee for all nine seasons of his career when he signed a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Mariners in December 2013. Not only was it a blockbuster move because of the sheer amount and length of the deal, but because Cano left the big stage of New York to join a Seattle franchise that hadn't been -- and still hasn't been -- to the postseason since 2001.

Since the first free-agent signing of the modern era back in 1974, there have been several free-agent deals that shook the baseball world and realigned power across the Majors. Here's a look at several moves that changed the landscape of baseball, and in some cases were downright shocking:

2013-14: Robinson Cano signs with Mariners
Cano had been a Yankee for all nine seasons of his career when he signed a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Mariners in December 2013. Not only was it a blockbuster move because of the sheer amount and length of the deal, but because Cano left the big stage of New York to join a Seattle franchise that hadn't been -- and still hasn't been -- to the postseason since 2001.

For some time, Cano appeared destined to follow in the foosteps of former teammates Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada in spending his entire career with the Yankees. But Seattle's offer reportedly far exceeded New York's in both monetary value and length, prompting Cano to head to the opposite coast. The second baseman has slashed .294/.353/.471 with 101 home runs in four-plus seasons with Seattle, and is currently serving an 80-game suspension after testing positive for a banned substance. He also underwent surgery to repair a fractured right hand in May.

2011-12: Albert Pujols signs with Angels
A Cardinal for his entire 11-year Major League career to that point, Pujols inked a 10-year, $254 million contract with the Angels in December 2011, a move that stunned the baseball world after it appeared the Cardinals, among a handful of other teams, were favorites to sign the future Hall-of-Fame slugger. The deal was the second-largest in baseball history in terms of average annual value behind Alex Rodriguez's 10-year, $275 million deal with the Yankees in 2007.

Pujols, the 2001 National League Rookie of the Year Award winner and three-time NL Most Valuable Player Award winner while with St. Louis, has been hampered by injuries since joining the Angels, including foot ailments that have required multiple surgeries. Overall, he's hit .260/.316/.454 with 181 homers in six-plus seasons with Los Angeles after slashing .328/.420/.617 with 445 homers in 11 seasons with St. Louis.

Video: Leaving St. Louis was a difficult decision for Pujols

2004-05: Carlos Beltran signs with Mets
Beltran was coming off one of the greatest postseason performances of all-time for the Astros when he signed a seven-year, $119 million deal with the Mets in January 2005. The Royals traded Beltran to the Astros in June 2004 as part of a three-team deal, and he went on to hit .435 with three doubles and eight homers between the NL Division Series and NL Championship Series as Houston fell a game short of reaching the World Series.

Beltran struck a deal with the Mets just weeks after New York landed free agent right-hander Pedro Martinez, who had just helped the Red Sox win their first World Series title in 86 years. The New York Times reported that it was the Martinez deal that helped convince Beltran to join the Mets.

In his seven seasons with New York, Beltran hit .280/.369/.500 with 149 home runs. In 2011, he was traded to the Giants in the deal that sent Zack Wheeler to New York. Beltran then played two seasons with the Cardinals, two-plus seasons with the Yankees and a season with the Rangers before returning to Houston to help the Astros win the World Series in 2017.

2003-04: Ivan Rodriguez signs with Tigers
Coming off a season in which he helped the upstart Marlins defeat the Yankees in the World Series, Rodriguez was a free agent catcher entering his age-32 season with back issues. That caused him to remain on the market through the holidays that offseason, but the Tigers made a surprising four-year, $40 million offer to the 10-time All-Star. The signing turned out to be the beginning of a rejuvenation for the club, serving as a catalyst for other moves that would follow to take the franchise from a 119-loss season in 2003, to the World Series by 2006.

Rodriguez never went on the disabled list during his five-year run with Detroit, hitting .298/.328/.449 and being named an American League All-Star four straight seasons from 2004-07.

Video: DET@KC: Pudge collects five hits against Royals

2000-01: Alex Rodriguez signs with Rangers
Rodriguez landed the largest contract in sports history -- doubling the size of NBA star Kevin Garnett's deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves -- when he signed a 10-year, $252 million deal with the Rangers in January 2001. At age 25, Rodriguez was the brightest young star in the game, having hit .309/.374/.561 with 189 home runs and 133 steals in five full seasons with the Mariners.

Rodriguez put up big numbers, as expected, with Texas, slashing .305/.395/.615 with 156 homers in three seasons before the Rangers traded him to the Yankees. Following the 2007 season, Rodriguez opted out of the final three years on his contract, and later re-signed with the Yankees on a new record 10-year, $275 million contract. In a 22-year career, Rodriguez finished with 696 home runs and a .930 OPS. He was a three-time AL MVP Award winner and a 14-time All-Star.

Video: TEX@CWS: A-Rod hits his 200th career home run

2000-01: Manny Ramirez signs with Red Sox
In a truly franchise-altering move, Boston signed Ramirez to an eight-year, $160 million contract in December 2000. It came as a surprise in many quarters that Ramirez would leave his comfort zone in Cleveland, where he established himself as a slugging star over the first eight seasons of his career. While the Indians' offer to re-sign him was a strong one, Boston won out, and within four years, Ramirez would join with David Ortiz and Pedro Martinez, among other later signings to bring the city its first World Series title since 1918.

Ramirez was the MVP of the 2004 World Series, in which the Red Sox swept the Cardinals. Overall, in eight years with Boston, he hit .312/.411/.588 with 274 home runs. He also helped the 2007 club win the World Series with a sweep of the Rockies.

Video: Manny talks about his time with the Red Sox

1998-99: Randy Johnson signs with D-backs
The D-backs were fresh off their inaugural season, in which they lost 97 games, when they signed a 35-year-old Johnson to a four-year, $52 million contract. The move was considered curious by many, given that Arizona was an expansion franchise and Johnson would be under contract through the age of 38. But the skepticism proved to be wrong when Johnson went on to win four consecutive NL Cy Young Awards and helped lead Arizona to the 2001 World Series title in seven games over the Yankees.

Johnson was named co-MVP along with Curt Schilling for the World Series, coming on in relief during Game 7 after having started Game 6, and tossing 1 1/3 scoreless frames before the D-backs won on a Luis Gonzalez walk-off single off Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning. In all, the Big Unit spent six seasons with Arizona in his first stint with the club (he would return for two more seasons from 2007-08), posting a 2.65 ERA and 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

Video: ARI@SEA: Big Unit tosses shutout against former team

1992-93: Greg Maddux signs with Braves
Maddux was the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner in the winter of 1992, a free agent after spending the first seven seasons of his career with the Cubs. It was expected that the Yankees would land the right-hander, but in a surprise twist, it was Atlanta that inked Maddux to a five-year, $28 million contract on Dec. 9 during the Winter Meetings. While the contract was for less than what New York was offering, Maddux wanted to join what would become one of the greatest starting rotations in baseball history with Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Steve Avery.

Maddux would go on to become the best starting pitcher of the 1990s, and indeed one of the best in baseball history. The Hall of Famer won three consecutive NL Cy Young Awards from 1993-95 for Atlanta, making it four straight overall. He helped the Braves win the 1995 World Series over the powerhouse Indians for the franchise's first championship in Atlanta. Maddux also won 10 consecutive NL Gold Glove Awards with the Braves, and in 11 seasons had a 2.63 ERA.

1992-93: Barry Bonds signs with Giants
In a move that was more monumental than surprising, Bonds left the Pirates and joined the team his father, Bobby, had starred with from 1968-74. Bonds' godfather is Giants legend Willie Mays, and Bonds grew up in the Bay Area while his father played for San Francisco. The Giants were nearly sold and moved to Florida following the 1992 season, but a new ownership group purchased the team and kept it in San Francisco, giving it a jump-start by landing Bonds -- a two-time NL MVP Award winner -- with a six-year, $43.75 million contract.

The Bonds signing was a catalyst in vaulting the Giants to a 103-win season in 1993, and eventually four postseason appearances over the next decade. Bonds would win five more NL MVP Awards and hit 586 of his all-time record 762 home runs in 15 seasons with San Francisco. He was named to 12 All-Star teams over that span, and won six of his eight career NL Gold Glove Awards. During his tenure with the Giants, the franchise built a new waterfront ballpark and came within one victory of winning the World Series in 2002.

Video: FLA@SF: Bonds homers in his debut at Candlestick

1980-81: Dave Winfield signs with Yankees
In what was at the time the richest contract in sports history, Winfield signed with the Yankees for 10 years and $23 million in December 1980. The big slugger had spent his entire eight-year career to that point with the Padres, having hit 154 homers while stealing 133 bases for San Diego. Winfield hit 205 home runs with an identical 134 OPS+ in nine seasons with New York before the Yankees traded him to the Angels in 1990. Despite his productivity, along with other stars such as Don Mattingly during the decade, the Yankees never made the postseason during Winfield's time with the club after an appearance in the 1981 World Series.

1979-80: Nolan Ryan signs with Astros
Ryan began his career with the Mets and made a name for himself with the Angels, but he returned to his home state by signing a four-year, $4.5 million contract with the Astros, just 25 miles north of his hometown of Alvin, Texas, in November 1979. With the contract, he became the first player in MLB history to earn more than $1 million in a single season. In nine seasons with Houston, Ryan compiled 1,866 strikeouts with a 3.13 ERA, setting an MLB record by tossing his fifth career no-hitter on Sept. 26, 1981 vs. the Dodgers. Ryan also anchored the starting rotations of the franchise's first two postseason clubs in 1980 and '86.

Ryan would go on to play five more seasons with the Rangers after his tenure in Houston, and finished his career with seven no-hitters and a record 5,714 strikeouts. Though he played for four different teams in his 27-year career, Ryan's contract with the Astros paved the way for lucrative deals for future free agents after he broke the $1 million per year barrier in 1979.

Video: LAD@HOU: Ryan tosses fifth career no-hitter

1974-75: Catfish Hunter signs with Yankees
Following a dispute with Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley in 1974, an arbitrator ruled Hunter to be a free agent, the first such designation of a Major League Baseball player in more than a century. Hunter ultimately signed a landmark five-year, $3.75 million deal (with a $1 million signing bonus) with the Yankees on New Year's Eve, opening the door for what would become MLB free agency over the decades that would follow.

Hunter helped the Yankees restore their fortunes as baseball's best club, reaching the World Series each year from 1976-78, and winning back-to-back titles in '77 and '78. The Hall of Famer finished out his 15-year career with the Yankees, posting a 3.58 ERA over five seasons for New York.

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.