As the offseason winds down and Spring Training approaches, the strategy for remaining free agents begins to shift. As we've seen in recent years, a number of high-profile free agents have been willing to take one-year deals in hopes of building up their value and getting better long-term deals the
As the offseason winds down and Spring Training approaches, the strategy for remaining free agents begins to shift. As we've seen in recent years, a number of high-profile free agents have been willing to take one-year deals in hopes of building up their value and getting better long-term deals the following winter.
There has already been some chatter that Craig Kimbrel could try that approach, and Josh Donaldson already went that way when he signed his $23 million contract with the Braves in November.
With that in mind, let's look back at some notable one-year deals in recent years that worked out well in the short term for the team and in the long term for the player:
Ian Desmond signs with Rangers for one year, $8 million
The next winter: Five-year, $70 million deal with Rockies
Josh Hamilton was sidelined for Opening Day with knee issues, and so Texas fortified the bottom of its lineup with Desmond -- who was coming off his own struggles with the Nationals in 2015. The Rangers made Desmond an outfielder (though he had played just two games there prior to signing), and while he graded below-average in center field, he delivered with his bat. The Rangers captured their second straight American League West title thanks in part to Desmond's 104 league-adjusted OPS+ and 22 home runs, and he parlayed his second All-Star campaign into a huge contract with Colorado.
Dexter Fowler re-signs with Cubs for one year, $8 million
The next winter: Five-year, $82.5 million deal with Cardinals
The Cubs were looking to duplicate their own success after advancing to the National League Championship Series, but many figured they'd do so without Fowler. But the outfielder surprised his teammates by walking into their Spring Training workout in street clothes, thus announcing his return to the North Side. Earlier reports linked Fowler to a three-year deal with the Orioles, but he helped the Cubs capture their long-awaited World Series championship instead before signing with the rival Cardinals.
Rich Hill signs with A's for one year, $6 million
The next winter: Three-year, $48 million deal with Dodgers
Hill didn't have nearly the same cachet as Desmond and Fowler, but it's doubtful that a pitcher has ever parlayed four starts into a bigger career turn. After spending most of 2015 with the independent Long Island Ducks, Hill signed with Boston and posted a 1.55 ERA over four games. That convinced the A's to sign Hill that winter, and his subsequent success by the Bay convinced the Dodgers to trade future Major Leaguers Jharel Cotton and Frankie Montas to Oakland for Hill in August 2016. The next winter, the journeyman inked a three-year deal with Los Angeles.
Nelson Cruz signs with Orioles for one year, $8 million
The next winter: Four-year, $57 million deal with Mariners
Cruz's stock was down after he had missed 50 games of the 2013 season because of a suspension due to the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drugs scandal, and his $8 million deal represented a serious cut from the Rangers' $14.1 million qualifying offer that he had rejected earlier in the offseason. What followed was one of the greatest one-year cameos in recent memory: Cruz paced the Majors with 40 home runs and drove in 109 while slugging .525 for the year, helping Baltimore claim its first AL East crown in 17 years. No one has homered more over the past five seasons than Cruz (203 home runs), who went on to sign a megadeal with the Mariners.
Ervin Santana signs with Braves for one year, $8 million
The next winter: Four-year, $55 million deal with Twins
Spring Training had already begun by the time Santana threw a bullpen session that convinced the Braves to sign him for rotation depth. Atlanta starters Brandon Beachy, Kris Medlen and Mike Minor all began the year on the disabled list (Beachy and Medlen would miss the entire season), and so Santana filled the void with a competent campaign, going 14-10 with a league-adjusted 90 ERA+ over 196 innings. The right-hander signed much quicker the following offseason, inking a long-term deal with the Twins.
Edwin Jackson signs with Nationals for one year, $8 million
The next winter: Four-year, $52 million deal with Cubs
Few players in history have switched uniforms as much as Jackson, but the right-hander's 189 2/3 frames with a 4.03 ERA with Washington in 2012 convinced the Cubs to give him a more permanent home. The North Siders gave Jackson a four-year contract with an $8 million signing bonus just after New Year's Day in 2013, but his innings-eating ability did not accompany him to Chicago. Jackson's injuries and inconsistency (16-34, 5.37 ERA) eventually forced Chicago to release him in July 2015.
Adrian Beltre signs with Red Sox for one year, $9 million
The next winter: Six-year, $96 million deal with Rangers
This might be the most successful parlay of anyone listed here. Beltre's career was at a crossroads after five somewhat disappointing offensive seasons in Seattle, and he had missed more than a month of action the year prior after undergoing shoulder surgery. But Beltre's Gold Glove defense at third base convinced Boston -- which was seeing its incumbent third baseman, Mike Lowell, struggling with injuries -- to sign the Dominican native to a one-year flier. Beltre, who owned a career .179 average at Fenway Park prior to signing, exploded with his new club in 2010, leading the team with a .321 average and tying David Ortiz with 102 RBIs. Beltre went on to sign a six-year, $96 million deal with Texas, and now seems poised to join Ivan Rodriguez and Nolan Ryan as the only Rangers in the Hall of Fame.
Rafael Soriano signs with Braves for one year, $7.25 million
The next winter: Three-year, $35 million deal with Yankees
Meanwhile, Soriano surprised the Braves by accepting arbitration and Atlanta -- which was already paying Takashi Saito and Billy Wagner -- didn't want to add Soriano to its payroll in the coming years. The Rays flipped their own recently acquired pitcher in Jesse Chavez to land a new closer in Soriano, and he rewarded them with a 45-save, All-Star campaign for the AL East champs. The Yankees then gave Soriano $35 million to be Mariano Rivera's setup man.
Kyle Lohse signs with Cardinals for one year, $4.25 million
The next winter: Four-year, $41 million extension with Cardinals
St. Louis saw Lohse as a starter who could hold the fort while Chris Carpenter and Mark Mulder worked their way back from injuries, and the move paid off big when Lohse went 15-6 with a 3.78 ERA. The Cardinals were impressed enough to hand Lohse a four-year extension, and he won 14 games for the 2011 World Series champions.
Kerry Wood signs with Cubs for one year, $4.2 million
The next winter: Two-year, $20.5 million deal with Indians
Wood wasn't the dominant starter he used to be by 2008, but his upside and familiarity made a one-year deal a simple decision for the Cubs. That season was when Wood converted himself full-time into an effective reliever; the righty made his second All-Star team and saved 34 games for the North Siders before parlaying that into a job as the Indians' closer in '09.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.