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Free-agent signings each team can be proud of

MLB.com

Here's a look at the best free-agent signings for each team this century. Some of these players are still on the team, some of them provided their teams tons of value in the past, some of them are just getting warmed up. Last year, teams were hesitant to jump into free agency. Here are some arguments from the past as to why they should.

Note: For each player, the year listed is the first season he played with the club after he signed the contract, even if he actually signed it the previous November or December.

Here's a look at the best free-agent signings for each team this century. Some of these players are still on the team, some of them provided their teams tons of value in the past, some of them are just getting warmed up. Last year, teams were hesitant to jump into free agency. Here are some arguments from the past as to why they should.

Note: For each player, the year listed is the first season he played with the club after he signed the contract, even if he actually signed it the previous November or December.

AL EAST

Blue Jays: Russell Martin, five years, $82 million, 2015
Martin has battled injuries the last couple of years, but he was terrific at the beginning of his contract. The Canadian catcher was perfect fit for a Blue Jays team that leaped when its window was open and made it to the American League Championship Series in consecutive years, with Martin playing a big part.

Orioles: Wei-Yin Chen, three years, $11.3 million, 2012
Chen was perhaps the Orioles' most consistent pitcher for his four years in Baltimore, and Miami rewarded him with an even bigger contract when he left.

Rays: Carlos Pena, Minor League deal, 2007
Pena hit 46 homers for the Rays that year, and he was just as good when they re-signed him to a three-year, $24 million deal the next season -- the year Tampa Bay went to its lone World Series.

Red Sox: David Ortiz, one year, $1.25 million, 2003
Ortiz was only a free agent because the Twins released him, making this arguably the most fortuitous free-agent signing ever. Every contract the Red Sox signed him to after this one -- for much more money than he got in this deal -- was more than worth it for them as well.

Yankees: Hideki Matsui, three years, $21 million, 2003
"Godzilla" hit a total of 70 homers across the three-year span of his original deal with the Yankees. He'd later re-sign for four years, ending his career in New York by being named World Series MVP in 2009.

AL CENTRAL

Indians: Juan Gonzalez, one year, $10 million, 2001
This was JuanGone's last full season, and he finished fifth in MVP voting before going to Texas for the declining years of his career.

Royals: Edinson Volquez, two years, $20 million, 2015
Kendrys Morales was another option here, as both helped the Royals win that elusive World Series.

Tigers: Ivan Rodriguez, four years, $40 million, 2004
Both the Tigers and Rodriguez were widely criticized when he signed such a big deal with one of the worst teams in baseball. Two years later, they were both in the World Series.

Twins: Jim Thome, one year, $1.5 million, 2010
He came back for $3 million the next season, but he was outstanding in 2010, helping the team to the playoffs and looking like a natural fit in a Twins uniform.

White Sox: Jermaine Dye, two years, $10.15 million, 2005
Dye was the slugger the White Sox needed, and by the end of the deal, he had won a World Series MVP Award.

AL WEST

Angels: Vladimir Guerrero, five years, $70 million, 2004
This future Hall of Famer's contract, which came a couple of years after A-Rod signed for $252 million with Texas and Manny Ramirez signed for $160 million with Boston, looked like a bargain by comparison.

Astros: Roger Clemens, one year, $5 million, 2004
Clemens signed roughly the same deal with the Astros in 2005, which, according to ERA+, is the best year of his career.

Athletics: Bartolo Colon, one year, $3 million, 2013
Colon was 40 in 2013, when he put up the lowest ERA of his career (2.65).

Mariners: Ichiro Suzuki, three years, $14 million, 2001
Technically, Ichiro was signed last century, but since he didn't play his first game until this one, we're counting him.

Rangers: Adrian Beltre, five years, $80 million, 2011
Beltre had just rebuilt his value in Boston on a one-year deal after a tumultuous five years in Seattle, and went on to become a legend in Texas and cementing his status as a future Hall of Famer.

NL EAST

Braves: Billy Wagner, one year, $7 million, 2010
Wagner's lowest ERA of his career (1.43) came in his final season, which he played in Atlanta.

Marlins: Ivan Rodriguez, one year, $10 million, 2003
Yep, Pudge is on here twice, and why not? He was the vocal leader of a World Series-winning team.

Mets: Carlos Beltran, seven years, $119 million, 2005
The only people not convinced of this are, of course, Mets fans. Per Baseball Reference's WAR, his two best seasons (and three of his best five) came in Queens.

Nationals: Max Scherzer, seven years, $210 million, 2015
Many teams were scared off by Scherzer's age and violent delivery. Suffice it to say, they wouldn't mind having him right now.

Phillies: Cliff Lee, five years, $120 million, 2011
People were scared off by Lee as well. But he was fantastic nearly every year he was in Philadelphia.

NL CENTRAL

Brewers: Lorenzo Cain, five years, $80 million, 2018
Is it too early to say this already feels like a steal? Maybe. But maybe not.

Cardinals: Matt Holliday, seven years, $120 million, 2010
The Cardinals parted ways with Holliday at the end of his deal, but he provided excess value to them essentially every year of the contract.

Cubs: Moises Alou, three years, $27 million, 2002
Jon Lester may yet trump this -- perhaps he already has -- but Alou helped get the Cubs to within a game of the Fall Classic in 2003, as close as they'd get before finally winning it all in '16.

Pirates: Russell Martin, two years, $17 million, 2013
The Pirates' postseason breakthrough happened the second year of this contract, and Martin was instrumental in making that happen. (Fun note: There are two guys featured twice in this piece, and both of them are catchers -- Martin and Pudge.)

Reds: Aroldis Chapman, six years, $30 million, 2010
Say what you will about the Reds, but they were in on Chapman first.

NL WEST

D-backs: Randy Johnson, four years, $52 million, 1999
The easiest pick on this whole list, obviously. Johnson won the NL Cy Young Award every single year of this deal, going a combined 81-27 with a 2.48 ERA and 1,417 strikeouts in 1,030 innings.

Dodgers: Derek Lowe, four years, $36 million, 2005
The veteran right-hander won 54 games for the Dodgers between 2005-08, never starting fewer than 32 games in a season during that stretch. Yasiel Puig is also in the running.

Giants: Ray Durham, three years, $20 million, 2003
Durham hit .286/.362/.451 during this deal, helping the Giants win 100 games in his first year in San Francisco. Barry Bonds would, of course, be the all-time answer, but the only free-agent deal he ever signed with the Giants came prior to the 1993 season, precluding him from qualifying here.

Padres: Joaquin Benoit, two years, $15 million, 2014
Benoit had been a closer the previous year for the Tigers, but the Padres used him as an all-purpose reliever, and he put up a 1.96 ERA over his two seasons in San Diego.

Rockies: Mark Reynolds, one year, $1.5 million, 2017
Reynolds signed a one-year deal with Colorado prior to the 2016 season and was serviceable. He then signed another one-year deal for the following season for less money, and the Rockies got 30 homers out of him on the way to earning a Wild Card spot.

Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.

10 notable examples of 3-team trades

MLB.com

When it comes to pulling off a trade, three is sometimes not a crowd, but a necessity.

While almost all deals involve two teams working out an exchange, sometimes the addition of a third brings some previously absent element into the mix that allows everyone to get what they want. It also makes things a bit more complicated, and perhaps more exciting, for fans, as they try to figure out who got the upper hand.

When it comes to pulling off a trade, three is sometimes not a crowd, but a necessity.

While almost all deals involve two teams working out an exchange, sometimes the addition of a third brings some previously absent element into the mix that allows everyone to get what they want. It also makes things a bit more complicated, and perhaps more exciting, for fans, as they try to figure out who got the upper hand.

With that in mind, here is a look back at 10 of the most significant three-way trades from recent history -- plus a bonus four-teamer:

Dec. 13, 2018: Switching sluggers
INDIANS GOT: Carlos Santana (from SEA), Jake Bauers (TB)
MARINERS GOT: Edwin Encarnacion (from CLE), competitive balance pick, cash
RAYS GOT: Yandy Diaz (CLE), Cole Sulser (CLE)

As part of their offseason restructuring, the Mariners took Santana as part of a deal with the Phillies, then flipped him (and the two guaranteed seasons left on his contract) for Encarnacion (and his one season). Meanwhile, the Indians reunited with Santana, who had been a big part of the team's success in recent years before signing with Philly after 2017. This deal also featured an intriguing exchange of talented but relatively unproven young hitters, with Bauers going to Cleveland and Diaz to Tampa Bay.

July 30, 2015: A baker's dozen
BRAVES GOT: Hector Olivera (from LAD), Paco Rodriguez (LAD), Zachary Bird (LAD), competitive balance pick (MIA)
DODGERS GOT: Alex Wood (ATL), Jose Peraza (ATL), Bronson Arroyo (ATL), Luis Avilan (ATL), Jim Johnson (ATL), Mat Latos (MIA), Mike Morse (MIA)
MARLINS GOT: Victor Araujo (LAD), Kevin Guzman (LAD), Jeff Brigham (MIA)

This ludicrously complicated deal stands out more for its sheer size and strangeness than any impact it had on the field. Of the 13 players involved, Wood has provided far and away the most production for his acquiring team, becoming a key rotation piece in L.A. Notably, Peraza became part of another three-team deal less than six months later, going to Cincinnati as part of a transaction that also involved the White Sox acquiring Todd Frazier.

Video: LAD@LAA: Wood K's Trout swinging to end the 1st

Dec. 9, 2014: Trea to D.C. -- eventually
NATIONALS GOT: Trea Turner (PTBNL from SD), Joe Ross (SD)
PADRES GOT: Wil Myers (TB), Ryan Hanigan (TB), Jose Castillo (TB), Gerardo Reyes (TB)
RAYS GOT: Steven Souza Jr. (WSH), Jake Bauers (SD), Rene Rivera (SD), Burch Smith (SD), Travis Ott (WSH)

While it could be viewed as two distinct trades, this deal was effectively a three-way concoction -- and one that might leave a bad taste for fans of the Padres and Rays. That's because of the emergence of Turner, who was selected 13th overall in the 2014 MLB Draft and could not be officially included in the trade until a year after that, under the rules in effect at the time. Turner since has become a star shortstop and one of MLB's top basestealers in Washington. Both Bauers and Souza since have been involved in other three-team trades, with Souza going to Arizona in February 2018, and Bauers to Cleveland as noted above.

Dec. 5, 2014: Didi to NYC
D-BACKS GOT: Robbie Ray (from DET), Domingo Leyba (DET)
TIGERS GOT: Shane Greene (NYY)
YANKEES GOT: Didi Gregorius (ARI)

This was Gregorius' second big three-teamer in two years (see below), and it thrust him into quite a spotlight. Derek Jeter had just wrapped up his career in the Bronx, and the Yankees needed a shortstop. Gregorius stepped in admirably and since then has gradually shaken off his label as a defensive specialist. Greene and Ray also have tasted some success, with Ray an All-Star in 2017 for Arizona.

July 31, 2014: Tigers meet Rays' Price
MARINERS GOT: Austin Jackson (from DET)
RAYS GOT: Willy Adames (DET), Drew Smyly (DET), Nick Franklin (SEA)
TIGERS GOT: David Price (TB)

The prize of the Trade Deadline, Price ultimately spent exactly one year in Detroit before he was dealt to Toronto in 2015, but he gave the Tigers a 2.90 ERA over 32 starts. It still remains to be seen how much they gave up for that performance, with Adames showing promise as a Rays rookie in '18 after years as a top prospect.

Video: DET@NYY: Price fans 10, goes 8 2/3 in Tigers debut

Dec. 11, 2012: Didi, Part I
D-BACKS GOT: Gregorius (from CIN), Tony Sipp (CLE), Lars Anderson (CLE)
INDIANS GOT: Trevor Bauer (ARI), Bryan Shaw (ARI), Matt Albers (ARI), Drew Stubbs (CIN)
REDS GOT: Shin-Soo Choo (CLE), Jason Donald (CLE)

Quite a bit of talent changed hands in this trade. Cleveland made out particularly well, taking advantage of Arizona's impatience with Bauer (the third overall pick in 2011) and also landing Shaw, who became a key bullpen piece for the next five seasons. Cincinnati only got one season of Choo before he reached free agency, but it featured a .423 OBP. Gregorius' tenure in the desert also was brief, as previously discussed.

July 31, 2010: Klubot, activate
CARDINALS GOT: Jake Westbrook (from CLE), Nick Greenwood (SD)
INDIANS GOT: Corey Kluber (SD)
PADRES GOT: Ryan Ludwick (STL)

St. Louis got a solid veteran starting pitcher in Westbrook, while Ludwick struggled in San Diego. Kluber wasn't a household name at the time, as a former fourth-round pick who was in Double-A, but four years later, he was the American League Cy Young Award winner.

Dec. 8, 2009: Max value
D-BACKS GOT: Ian Kennedy (from NYY), Edwin Jackson (DET)
TIGERS GOT: Max Scherzer (ARI), Austin Jackson (NYY), Phil Coke (NYY), Daniel Schlereth (ARI)
YANKEES GOT: Curtis Granderson (DET)

This is just a fun trade all around, though less so for the D-backs, who got decent value over three-plus seasons from Kennedy and a no-hitter from Jackson while giving up too early on Scherzer. The 11th overall pick in the 2006 MLB Draft made only 37 starts for Arizona before continuing his development in Detroit, where he won his first Cy Young Award in '13. The Tigers came away with not only Scherzer, but five seasons of a valuable starting center fielder (Jackson). Granderson put together four productive seasons in the Bronx -- including two with 40-plus homers -- before moving on to the Mets.

Video: Max Scherzer wins his first Cy Young Award

Dec. 11, 2008: "It was a mess"
INDIANS GOT: Joe Smith (from NYM), Luis Valbuena (SEA)
MARINERS GOT: Franklin Gutierrez (CLE), Jason Vargas (NYM), Aaron Heilman (NYM), Endy Chavez (NYM), Ezequiel Carrera (NYM), Mike Carp (NYM), Maikel Cleto (NYM)
METS GOT: J.J. Putz (SEA), Sean Green (SEA), Jeremy Reed (SEA)

Ten years later, it's hard to say this was a true blockbuster. Smith's "mess" assessment -- recently shared with MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince -- seems more accurate. But this massive deal executed at the 2008 Winter Meetings remains fascinating. It ultimately backfired on the Mets, who got little from Putz, previously a top closer in Seattle. Smith, Vargas, Gutierrez, and the late Valbuena went on to greater success afterward, though none of the dozen players involved was bound for stardom.

July 31, 2008: Mannywood is born
DODGERS GOT: Manny Ramirez (from BOS)
PIRATES GOT: Brandon Moss (BOS), Craig Hansen (BOS), Andy LaRoche (LAD), Bryan Morris (LAD)
RED SOX GOT: Jason Bay (PIT)

Ramirez's highly successful and tumultuous tenure in Boston finally came to an end, as he was shipped off to L.A. The immediate result was an all-time great stretch run that included a .396/.489/.743 slash line and 17 home runs in 53 games. The Sox didn't come away empty-handed, either, as Bay posted a 36-homer, 119-RBI season in 2009. No such luck for the Bucs, with only Moss going on to success -- after he'd moved on from Pittsburgh.

July 31, 2004: Tour de fource
CUBS GOT: Nomar Garciaparra (from BOS), Matt Murton (BOS)
EXPOS GOT: Alex Gonzalez (CHC), Brendan Harris (CHC), Francis Beltran (CHC)
RED SOX GOT: Orlando Cabrera (MON), Doug Mientkiewicz (MIN)
TWINS GOT: Justin Jones (CHC)

While this technically wasn't a three-team trade, it's certainly worth mentioning here, as a rare example of a deal that required more than three clubs to complete. It took place a month after Carlos Beltran went from the Royals to the Astros in a three-way transaction that also had major postseason implications. In this case, Garciaparra was the biggest name involved, as a five-time All-Star and two-time batting champion. But Cabrera brought a steadier glove at shortstop and played well in his short stint in Boston before leaving as a free agent. Mientkiewicz secured his own place in Sox history, catching the final out of the World Series at first base as the club snapped its infamous championship drought.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Most shocking free-agent decisions in MLB history

MLB.com

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:

2018-19: Manny Machado signs with Padres
Even before the 2018-19 offseason started, we knew it would be defined by the Machado and Bryce Harper free-agent sweepstakes. After a long winter of waiting, the first winner finally emerged: the Padres, who landed Machado on a record-setting 10-year, $300 million deal.

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:

2018-19: Manny Machado signs with Padres
Even before the 2018-19 offseason started, we knew it would be defined by the Machado and Bryce Harper free-agent sweepstakes. After a long winter of waiting, the first winner finally emerged: the Padres, who landed Machado on a record-setting 10-year, $300 million deal.

That makes Machado not just baseball's first-ever $300 million free agent, but the first in the history of the four major North American professional sports. It could keep the 26-year-old shortstop in San Diego through the 2028 season, putting Machado in position to anchor the team's talented young core for years to come. 

2017-18: Shohei Ohtani signs with Angels
The pursuit of Ohtani, the two-way superstar from Japan who captivated the Majors even before he made his big league debut, was the hottest topic of the offseason. All 30 clubs submitted proposals to Ohtani as to why they would be the ideal fit for the 23-year-old, but the finalists along with the Angels were the Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, Padres and Rangers. The fact that Ohtani chose the Angels, particularly over the neighboring Dodgers, who were coming off a World Series appearance, was shocking to many.

In the end, however, a "family-like atmosphere" and a "comfort level" with the organization is what led Ohtani to choose the Halos, according to general manager Billy Eppler. Ohtani lived up to the hype, winning the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year Award. Despite missing time due to injury that required Tommy John surgery, he hit .285/.361/.564 with 22 home runs in just 367 plate appearances, while also posting a 3.31 ERA and 30 percent strikeout rate on the mound.

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 slashed .296/.353/.472 with 107 home runs in five seasons with Seattle, and served an 80-game suspension in 2018 after testing positive for a banned substance. He was traded to the Mets following the 2018 season.

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/.315/.453 with 188 homers in his first seven 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: Vladimir Guerrero signs with Angels
Guerrero possed every tool one could want from a Major League player -- most especially his light-tower power and a cannon throwing arm from right field -- but he perhaps wasn't as big a star as he should have been while playing for cash-strapped Montreal. The five-year, $70 million deal Guerrero signed with Anaheim changed all that, as the Angels capped an offseason that also saw them add Bartolo Colon, Kelvim Escobar and Jose Guillen by inking the biggest free agent on the market.

While the Angels were ultimately unable to add to their 2002 World Series title with Guerrero in tow, their star acquisition did just about everything else. The slugger hit .337, belted 39 homers and drove in 126 runs to capture the American League MVP in his L.A. debut and finished his six-year West Coast tenure with four All-Star selections and 137 dingers. In 2018, Guerrero became the first Hall of Fame player to don an Angels cap on his official plaque in Cooperstown. 

2004-05: Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez sign with Mets
Martinez had accomplished just about everything he could in Boston, putting together two of the greatest pitching seasons in history in 1999 and 2000 before helping the Red Sox capture their first World Series title in 86 years in '04. Omar Minaya had begun his tenure as the Mets' general manager just weeks before he took advantage of rocky negotations between Martinez and the Red Sox, swooping in to sign the future Hall of Famer to a four-year, $51.5 million deal that sent shockwaves through the sport. 

"We were willing to go the extra year and until then the Red Sox weren't,'' Minaya later recounted. "When they did, it was too late."

Martinez showed he had plenty left in the tank, going 15-8 with a 2.82 ERA in his first season in Queens before injuries began to set in. The righty made just 48 starts over the final three years of his contract with New York before moving on to his final season with the Phillies. 

Beltran, meanwhile, 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. 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 AL 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

1998-99: Kevin Brown signs with Dodgers 
Brown made history in December 1998 when he signed a seven-year deal that made him the first $100 million player in baseball history. The right-hander was entering his age-34 season, but he was also coming off a stellar season with the Padres in which he went 18-7 with a 2.38 ERA and helped San Diego capture its second pennant in franchise history.

The deal was not popular among rival executives who were less eager to begin handing out nine-figure deals -- especially to a pitcher -- but the Dodgers defended the move by pointing to the huge contracts handed out to players like Mike Piazza and Mo Vaughn that set the escalating precedent. 

"We're getting criticized because we were the most recent ones," argued then-Dodgers general manager Kevin Malone. "The fact of the matter is that we're just falling in line with what our competitors have done."

Brown had some high points during his Dodgers tenure, including 18 wins in his debut season and an ERA title in 2000, but injuries prevented him from fulfilling the full value of his record deal. Los Angeles traded Brown to the Yankees in December 2003, but he continued to struggle to stay on the field on a full-time basis before ultimately retiring in '06. 

Video: Brian Kenny pleads case for Albert Belle to the HOF

1996-97: Albert Belle signs with White Sox 
White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf flexed his financial muscles by inking Belle to a record five-year, $55 million contract in a move that pulled the slugger away from the Indians, Chicago's AL Central rival. Belle's prior two seasons in Cleveland were something to behold: A 52-double, 50-homer combo in 1995 followed by 148 RBIs in '96 that established the left fielder as one of the game's premier sluggers.

Belle continued to slug in the South Side, nearly replicating his 50-50 feat again in '98 when he hit 48 doubles and 49 homers, before he invoked an unusual clause in his contract that allowed him to demand that he remained one of the three highest-paid players in baseball. The White Sox declined Belle's demand, instead letting him leave via free agency, through which he signed another megadeal with the Orioles. 

1994-95: Larry Walker signs with Rockies
The 1994 players' strike forced the Expos to cut payroll, meaning Montreal had to say goodbye to its talented right fielder. The Rockies swooped in and signed Walker to a four-year, $22.5 million deal shortly after the work stoppage concluded, and their new acquisition took full advantage of the halcyon hitters' environment of pre-humidor Coors Field. Walker's OPS would sit above .900 in all but one of his nine full seasons in Denver as he made four All-Star teams and captured the '97 NL MVP. 

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.

Video: The 1990s Braves acquire Greg Maddux

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

1991-92: Bobby Bonilla signs with Mets 
Mets general manager Al Harazin characterized his club's back-to-back acquisitions of Eddie Murray and Bonilla as a "staggering parlay" when Bonilla inked his five-year, $29 million deal, and the contract still has lasting implications today. Bonilla's $5.8 million average annual salary made him the highest-paid athlete in North American professional team sports, edging him ahead of Knicks center Patrick Ewing.

Bonilla made two All-Star teams with the Mets, but ultimately couldn't reach his 1991 zenith, when he finished third in NL MVP voting after pacing the league with 44 doubles and helping the Pirates reach Game 7 of the NLCS. In 2000, the Mets opted for deferred payments that began in 2011 instead of paying Bonilla the $5.9 million he was owed that season. That means Bonilla receives a paycheck worth nearly $1.2 million every July through the year 2035. 

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

1978-79: Pete Rose signs with Phillies 
Philadelphia couldn't get past the NL Championship Series in three consecutive years from 1976-78, so the club entered into a competitive field for Rose with hopes of adding a fiery leader. The all-time hit leader received plenty of tempting offers -- including incentives such as a stake in Royals owner Ewing Kauffman's oil investments and the Braves' offer of a $100,000-per-year pension for life -- but Rose ultimately chose the Phillies thanks to their already-competitive roster. 

"They were the closest team to get where I wanted to be at that stage of my life," Rose later recounted, "and that was the World Series."

Rose's four-year, $3.24 million contract made him the highest-paid player in the game, and he helped lead the Phillies to their first World Series title in 1980, followed by another NL pennant in '83. 

1976-77: Reggie Jackson signs with Yankees
The Yankees won 97 games in 1976, but they were also swept by Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine" in that year's World Series. So, shortly after Thanksgiving, they added one more superstar in Jackson -- the '73 AL MVP who had already contributed to three World Series championship clubs in Oakland before clubbing 27 homers for the Orioles in '76 -- to help them get over the hump. Jackson's five-year, $3 million deal with New York ushered in one of the wildest periods in Yankees history, but ultimately a successful one, too. Jackson memorably homered in three straight at-bats in Game 6 of the following year's World Series to become a Bronx legend, and the Yankees defeated the Dodgers in back-to-back Fall Classics. 

Video: Reggie Jackson relives his 3-homer night

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.

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

10 of MLB's biggest player-team reunions

MLB.com

It's always nice to see a homecoming for a franchise icon, and through MLB history, plenty of players have returned to the teams where they became stars.

MLB.com is taking a look back at these reunions, highlighting some of the most prominent players who were, in fact, able to go home again.

It's always nice to see a homecoming for a franchise icon, and through MLB history, plenty of players have returned to the teams where they became stars.

MLB.com is taking a look back at these reunions, highlighting some of the most prominent players who were, in fact, able to go home again.

Only players who returned to an old team for the final stage of their careers are included here. There are others who, after their homecomings, went on to play for other teams. Those players -- Rickey Henderson with the A's, Greg Maddux with the Cubs, Tim Raines with the Expos, Tom Seaver with the Mets, Jim Thome with the Indians and Phillies and many more -- aren't included.

Here are 10 of MLB's most memorable player-team reunions.

Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners
First stint: 2001-12 | Returned: 2018
Ichiro's career might not be quite over -- he'll be on the Mariners' roster when they open the 2019 season against the A's in Japan -- but this is likely the final stop for the future Hall of Famer, and it's back where it all began. Ichiro was a Mariners fan favorite from the start. He burst onto the Major League scene in 2001 by winning both MVP and Rookie of the Year honors, and became a franchise icon over the next decade, making 10 straight All-Star teams, winning 10 straight Gold Gloves and two batting titles, and leading the Majors in hits seven times -- including setting the MLB single-season record with 262 in 2004. He was traded to the Yankees in 2012, but after six years away from Seattle, he returned in 2018.

Video: CLE@SEA: Ichiro received warmly in Mariners return

Barry Zito, Athletics
First stint: 2000-06 | Returned: 2015
Zito was the 2002 AL Cy Young winner and a three-time All-Star in Oakland from 2000-06, and he helped lead the A's to five playoff appearances in those first seven big league seasons. The left-hander crossed the Bay to the Giants in a blockbuster free-agent signing in December 2006, but never quite recaptured his A's dominance in San Francisco. After seven years with the Giants, and a year out of baseball in 2014, Zito returned to Oakland in 2015 and made his final three big league appearances in September. That included a start against the Giants and former teammate Tim Hudson, in honor of the A's Big Three of the early 2000s -- Zito, Hudson and Mark Mulder, who was in attendance for the game.

Video: SF@OAK: Former teammates Hudson and Zito square off

Ken Griffey Jr., Mariners
First stint: 1989-99 | Returned: 2009
The Kid is both a Mariners and MLB legend, and his career came full circle with Seattle. With his iconic left-handed swing, Griffey slugged his way to four AL home run crowns and the 1997 MVP Award over his first 11 big league seasons with the M's. After leaving for the Reds at the turn of the millennium, Griffey returned to the Mariners at the tail end of his career in 2009. In his first game back with Seattle in nearly a decade, Griffey homered. Just over a week later, on April 15, he hit his 400th home run in a Mariners uniform. Griffey retired the next year, ending a 630-home-run Hall of Fame career.

Video: LAA@SEA: Griffey cranks his 400th homer as a Mariner

Tom Glavine, Braves
First stint: 1987-2002 | Returned: 2008
Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz formed the nucleus of maybe the best starting rotation of all time, with the Hall of Fame trio leading the Braves teams that dominated the NL East from the 1990s through the early 2000s, when Atlanta won 14 straight division titles. Glavine spent his first 16 seasons in Atlanta, winning two Cy Young Awards (1991 and '98) and finishing in the Top 3 four other times. He left to sign with the Mets entering the 2003 season, but came back to the Braves for one last go-round at age 42 in 2008. The left-hander's 305th and final win came in an Atlanta uniform on May 20 of that season.

Video: CHC@ATL: Glavine records final career strikeout

Roger Clemens, Yankees
First stint: 1999-2003 | Returned: 2007
The Rocket's final big league season came with plenty of fanfare: Clemens announced his return via a news bulletin and public announcement during a May 2007 game at Yankee Stadium. His prorated one-year, $28 million contract made plenty more headlines in the following days, and Clemens' return was fully embraced by New York fans, with the Yankees trailing the rival Red Sox in the AL East. The 44-year-old made his much-anticipated debut in early June, holding the Pirates to three runs over six innings while striking out seven. But the rest of Clemens' season lacked the luster Yankees fans had come to expect (he finished 6-6 with a 4.18 ERA), as Boston won the World Series for the second time in four years.

Video: MIN@NYY: Roger Clemens gets his 350th win

Dennis Eckersley, Red Sox
First stint: 1978-84 | Returned: 1998
Eckersley cemented his Hall of Fame status in Oakland, but he came into his own as a Red Sox starter, most notably in 1978 when he led Boston with 20 wins and a 2.99 ERA during the club's famous pennant race with the Yankees. Eck appeared as a starter in all 191 appearances during his first Boston tenure, but was a full-time reliever by the time he signed with the Red Sox as a 43-year old in the winter of 1997. The right-hander chipped in 50 relief appearances as the Red Sox captured the AL Wild Card with a 92-70 record, and he even got one last save on May 15.

Video: KC@BOS: Eckersley records final save of his career

Gary Carter, Expos
First stint: 1974-84 | Returned: 1992
Few players, if any, were more beloved in Montreal than Carter, and his trade to the Mets in December 1984 arguably turned the tide of both franchises for the rest of the decade. Carter finished his first Expos tenure with seven All-Star Game nods, three Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers before helping the Mets capture the '86 World Series, but after brief stops in San Francisco and Los Angeles, the catcher returned to Montreal in 1992 for a final victory lap at age 38. Carter's new teammates still jokingly referred to him as "The Kid," and perhaps his presence galvanized the Expos as they improved by 16 wins from the previous year.

Don Sutton, Dodgers
First stint: 1966-80 | Returned: 1988
Sutton was a workhorse frontline starter for 15 years in Los Angeles, bridging the gap from Sandy Koufax's last season in 1966 to the doorstep of "Fernandomania" in '81. He moved on to form a stacked rotation with Nolan Ryan and Joe Niekro with Houston and then pitched for the Brewers, A's and Angels before winding his way back to Chavez Ravine for one final season in 1988. Then 43, Sutton started 16 games and compiled a 3.92 ERA before the Dodgers released him in early August -- though he still joined the team's World Series celebration at the White House that winter.

Reggie Jackson, Athletics
First stint: 1968-75 | Returned: 1987
The A's drafted Jackson with the second overall pick in just the second MLB Draft in 1966, and he moved with the franchise from Kansas City to Oakland as the A's ascended from cellar-dweller to perennial powerhouse. The slugger powered Oakland's dynastic World Series three-peat clubs from 1972-74, claiming the Series MVP honor in '73, and finished his first A's tenure with 254 home runs before building his "Mr. October" persona in the Bronx. At age 41, Jackson returned to the Bay Area in '87 and hit 15 homers for Oakland to finish with 563 -- good for sixth on the all-time career list when he hung up his spikes. He singled in his final Major League at-bat on Oct. 4.

Video: OAK@CWS: Reggie Jackson single in final at-bat

Minnie Minoso, White Sox
First stint: 1951-57 | Returned: 1960, '64, '76, '80
Minoso made history as one of the first Cuban players in the Major Leagues and one of the first Latin Americans to play in an All-Star Game. A versatile outfielder and third baseman, Minoso led the AL multiple times in triples and stolen bases while routinely hitting over .300 in his first tenure with the White Sox from 1951-57, then returned to the South Side multiple times during the latter half of his career. But Minoso's most memorable reunions with the White Sox came in 1976 and '80, when he came out of retirement at ages 50 and 54, respectively, to become one of the oldest Major Leaguers to ever take the field. Because his career began in 1949, Minoso, incredibly, played in five different decades.

Video: CAL@CWS: Minoso singles for final hit of MLB career

The best 'walk years' in baseball history

MLB.com

Adrian Beltre announced his retirement after last season, closing the door on a career that could lead him to Cooperstown.

Beltre built his excellent resume over 21 seasons in the Majors, but arguably, his two best years (2004 and '10) had something in common. Both were "walk years," meaning they came right before Beltre reached free agency.

Adrian Beltre announced his retirement after last season, closing the door on a career that could lead him to Cooperstown.

Beltre built his excellent resume over 21 seasons in the Majors, but arguably, his two best years (2004 and '10) had something in common. Both were "walk years," meaning they came right before Beltre reached free agency.

The idea that players always step up their games in such situations, with a big contract acting as motivation, is far from the truth. Plenty flop, or simply perform near their career norms.

But there is a long history of exceptional walk years as well, and Beltre is a big part of it. Here is a look at 20 of the best.

1. Alex Rodriguez, 2000 Mariners
Stats: .316/.420/.606 (163 OPS+), 41 home runs
Contract: 10 years, $252 million with Rangers
A-Rod only turned 25 in the middle of the 2000 season, when he racked up more than 10 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), per Baseball-Reference. The resulting deal with Texas smashed records and remains one of the biggest in baseball history.

2. Barry Bonds, 1992 Pirates
Stats: .311/.456/.624 (204 OPS+), 39 stolen bases
Contract: Six years, $43.75 million with Giants
Bonds entered the market coming off his second 30-30 season and National League Most Valuable Player Award in three years, as well as his third straight Gold Glove Award. He was even better in his first season in the Bay Area, taking MVP honors yet again.

3. Adrian Beltre, 2004 Dodgers
Stats: .334/.388/.629 (163 OPS+), 48 home runs
Contract: Five years, $64 million with Mariners
Only Bonds prevented Beltre from being NL MVP, as the 25-year-old authored a breakout campaign at the perfect time. Beltre's 9.6 WAR remains the most by a third baseman since Mike Schmidt in 1974.

4. Alex Rodriguez, 2007 Yankees
Stats: .314/.422/.645 (176 OPS+), 54 home runs
Contract: 10 years, $275 million with Yankees
A-Rod broke his own record for total dollars after opting out of the original deal. He was coming off his third American League MVP Award in five years and had led the AL in runs, homers, RBIs, slugging and OPS.

5. Zack Greinke, 2015 Dodgers
Stats: 19-3, 1.66 ERA (222 ERA+)
Contract: Six years, $206.5 million with D-backs
The right-hander's ERA was the lowest by a qualified pitcher since Greg Maddux in 1995, and he put together a 45 2/3-inning scoreless streak in June and July that was the longest in the Majors since Orel Hershiser set the record of 59 in 1988.

6. Greg Maddux, 1992 Cubs
Stats: 20-11, 2.18 ERA (166 ERA+)
Contract: Five years, $28 million with Braves
Maddux won his first NL Cy Young Award in 1992, when he allowed only seven homers in 268 innings. But he became a pitching legend in Atlanta, where he extended his Cy Young streak to four.

7. Jason Giambi, 2001 A's
Stats:.342/.477/.660 (199 OPS+), 38 home runs
Contract: Seven years, $120 million with Yankees
Only the arrival of Ichiro deprived Giambi of a second straight AL MVP Award, though he was even better than in 2000. The lefty slugger is the only AL first baseman since Rod Carew in 1977 to reach the 9-WAR mark in a season.

8. Jim Thome, 2002 Indians
Stats: .304/.445/.677 (197 OPS+), 52 home runs
Contract: Six years, $85 million with Phillies
The 2002 season was arguably the best of a 22-year career that landed Thome in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 2018. It was his lone 50-homer campaign, on his way to 612 total.

9. Catfish Hunter, 1974 A's
Stats: 25-12, 2.49 ERA (134 ERA+)
Contract: Five years, $3.75 million with Yankees
This was not the typical "walk year" we think of today. Hunter signed a two-year contract going into 1974, when he took AL Cy Young honors, and Oakland won its third straight World Series championship. But A's owner Charlie Finley was found to not be honoring the terms of Hunter's deal, and the star pitcher was declared a free agent -- setting off the first of many offseason baseball bidding wars. (Two years later, the reserve clause was history, and the true free-agent era began).

10. Carlos Beltran, 2004 Royals/Astros
Stats: .267/.367/.548 (133 OPS+), 42 stolen bases
Contract: Seven years, $119 million with Mets
It wasn't so much what Beltran did in the regular season that vaults him this high, though he did come within two homers of a 40-40 campaign. Rather, it's his memorable postseason run with Houston, when he hit .435/.536/1.022, with a record-tying eight homers over 12 games.

11. Rickey Henderson, 1989 Yankees/A's
Stats: .274/.411/.399 (132 OPS+), 77 stolen bases
Contract: Four years, $12 million with A's
Oakland traded its superstar leadoff man to the Yankees after the 1984 season, then reacquired him in June 1989. He went 52-for-58 in steal attempts over 85 regular-season games, then hit .441/.568/.941 with 11 steals in the postseason, as the A's won the World Series.

12. Kevin Brown, 1998 Padres
Stats: 18-7, 2.38 ERA (164 ERA+)
Contract: Seven years, $105 million with Dodgers
After winning a ring with the 1997 Marlins, the right-hander was traded to San Diego and allowed only eight homers over 257 innings. He parlayed that into becoming MLB's first $100 million man.

13. J.D. Drew, 2004 Braves
Stats: .305/.436/.569 (157 OPS+), 31 home runs
Contract: Five years, $55 million with Dodgers
This was the first time the 28-year-old Drew was healthy enough to accrue at least 500 plate appearances, and he showed the talent that made him a top-five pick in both the 1997 and '98 Drafts.

14. Mark Teixeira, 2008 Braves/Angels
Stats: .308/.410/.552 (152 OPS+), 33 home runs
Contract: 8 years, $180M with Yankees
Tex was good for the Braves, and then even better after a non-waiver Trade Deadline deal, posting a 1.081 OPS in 54 games for the AL West-winning Halos.

15. Robinson Cano, 2013 Yankees
Stats: .314/.383/.516 (147 OPS+), 27 home runs
Contract: 10 years, $240 million with Mariners
This was the capper to a four-year stretch in New York in which Cano won four Silver Slugger Awards and two Gold Gloves at second base, while leading MLB position players in WAR (30.1).

16. Adrian Beltre, 2010 Red Sox
Stats: .321/.365/.553 (141 OPS+), 28 home runs
Contract: Six years, $96 million with Rangers
A season at Fenway Park was exactly what Beltre needed to remind the baseball world that he was a star, following five years in Seattle's pitcher-friendly environment.

17. CC Sabathia, 2008 Indians/Brewers
Stats: 17-10, 2.70 ERA (156 ERA+)
Contract: Seven years, $161 million with Yankees
The 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner endured a rough April in '08, but was on a roll when the Brewers acquired him in early July. What followed was an all-time great stretch run in Milwaukee -- 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA and seven complete games in 17 starts.

18. Manny Ramirez, 2000 Indians
Stats: .351/.457/.697 (186 OPS+), 38 home runs
Contract: Eight years, $160 million with Red Sox
Manny's adventurous defense in the outfield held down his overall value (4.8 WAR) considerably, but you can't ignore what a terror he was with a bat in his hands.

19. Albert Belle, 1998 White Sox
Stats: .328/.399/.655 (172 OPS+), 49 home runs
Contract: Five years, $65 million with Orioles
A fearsome hitter, Belle slammed at least 48 homers for the third time in four years, drove in 152 runs and led the AL in OPS. But a degenerative hip condition ended his career after two years in Baltimore.

20. Alfonso Soriano, 2006 Nationals
Stats: .277/.351/.560 (135 OPS+), 46 home runs
Contract: Eight years, $136 million with Cubs
Traded from Texas to Washington at the end of 2005, Soriano put together the fourth -- and most recent -- 40-40 season in baseball history.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Biggest free-agent contracts in MLB history

Machado receives baseball's first $300 million free-agent deal
MLB.com

For a long time, the 2018-19 free agency period was hyped as a potentially historic one. Now it's exactly that.

With Bryce Harper and Manny Machado both hitting the market at once, it seemed like it was just a matter of who would sign a record-setting contract first. After a long winter of waiting, the baseball world got its answer: Machado, who signed a 10-year, $300 million deal with the Padres.

For a long time, the 2018-19 free agency period was hyped as a potentially historic one. Now it's exactly that.

With Bryce Harper and Manny Machado both hitting the market at once, it seemed like it was just a matter of who would sign a record-setting contract first. After a long winter of waiting, the baseball world got its answer: Machado, who signed a 10-year, $300 million deal with the Padres.

That's the free-agent deal in Major League history, surpassing Alex Rodriguez's 10-year, $275 million contract with the Yankees that he signed in December of 2007. Harper has yet to sign, and could top Machado's deal, but for now Machado is MLB's first and only $300 million free agent.

He tops an impressive list. Here are the 10 biggest contracts MLB free agents have ever received. (Note: These don't include contract extensions where the player didn't actually become a free agent, like Giancarlo Stanton's 13-year, $325 million deal with the Marlins that he's playing out with the Yankees.)

1. Manny Machado, Padres: 10 years, $300 million (2019-28)
It took more than a decade, but A-Rod's record is broken. Machado is the first $300 million free agent in MLB history with the deal he inked with San Diego. In fact, Machado's deal is the biggest free-agent contract in the history of the four major North American professional sports. Now the question becomes: Will Harper top it?

Video: NLCS Gm1: Machado belts a solo homer to left-center

2. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: 10 years, $275 million (2008-17)
In the middle of Game 4 of the 2007 World Series, Rodriguez's agent, Scott Boras, announced that A-Rod would be opting out of the final three years of his contract with the Yankees. (This was the contract he had originally signed with the Rangers prior to the '01 season, which carried over to New York when he was traded in '04.) The timing created a torrent of controversy, and it seemed like Rodriguez's tenure with the Yankees was over. Rodriguez would later call the opt-out a "huge debacle" and a "mistake that was handled extremely poorly."

Seeking to repair the relationship and re-open negotiations, A-Rod approached the Yankees through a Goldman Sachs managing director, and the two sides were able to work out a new deal in mid-December. That deal was the richest free-agent contract in MLB history. Rodriguez would go on to lead the Bronx Bombers to their 27th World Series championship in 2009. "All along," A-Rod said after reaching his new deal, "I knew I wanted to be a Yankee."

Video: A-Rod clubs six homers during the 2009 postseason

3. Alex Rodriguez, Rangers: 10 years, $252 million (2001-10)
Rodriguez's first free-agent megadeal -- the one he signed with the Rangers before the 2001 season -- ranks right behind his one with the Yankees. It pried him away from the Mariners at age 25, and at the time completely shattered the record for the largest free-agent contract, more than doubling Mike Hampton's $121 million deal with the Rockies that had been completed just days before Rodriguez's agreement was reached. In fact, it also doubled the largest professional sports contract to that point, Kevin Garnett's $126 million contract with the NBA's Timberwolves signed in 1997.

A-Rod played only the first three seasons of that contract in Texas before he was traded to the Yankees, but for his part, he lived up to the deal. Rodriguez averaged 52 home runs and 132 RBIs with the Rangers -- leading the American League in homers all three years -- with a 1.011 OPS from 2001-03. He won the AL MVP Award in '03. Rodriguez kept up the pace after he was traded to New York, winning two more MVP Awards in '05 and '07 (although his postseason struggles at times caused a lot of consternation among Yankees fans).

Video: SEA@TEX: A-Rod's 52nd, 53rd homers of 2002

4 (tie). Albert Pujols, Angels: 10 years, $240 million (2012-21)
Pujols was coming off a historically great 11-year run with the Cardinals when he hit free agency following the 2011 season. He was a three-time National League MVP Award winner ('05 and '08-09), a two-time World Series champ ('06 and '11), the '01 NL Rookie of the Year Award winner, a nine-time All-Star ('01, 2003-10), a back-to-back home run champion ('09-10) and a batting champion ('03). His accomplishments earned him a mega-deal with the Angels entering his age-32 season.

Injuries have sapped Pujols of his elite production since he arrived in Anaheim, and the amount of money the Angels have to pay him through his decline have caused many to criticize the contract. But Pujols also has over 1,000 hits with the Angels -- making him one of just nine players in MLB history with 1,000 hits in both leagues -- and close to 200 homers, including a 40-homer season and a pair of 30-homer seasons. He's reached several career milestones in Anaheim: 500 and 600 home runs, as well as 3,000 hits. Pujols' best years came with the Cardinals, but he's further cemented his Hall of Fame legacy with the Angels.

Video: LAA@WSH: Pujols hits a two-run shot for No. 500

4 (tie). Robinson Cano, Mariners: 10 years, $240 million (2014-23)
Cano signed his contract with Seattle at age 31 after spending the first nine years of his career with the Yankees. In New York, he was a five-time AL All-Star, a five-time AL Silver Slugger Award winner and two-time Gold Glove Award winner at second base, as well as winning the World Series in 2009. He continued to excel with the Mariners, earning All-Star nods in three of his first four seasons in Seattle. Cano, now a member of the Mets, is sitting on 2,470 career hits entering his age-36 season in 2019, which gives him a shot at 3,000. He's on a potential Hall of Fame track, although his suspension for violating MLB's performance-enhancing drug policy in 2018 might cast a shadow over his case.

"I want to earn every penny that I get here," Cano said at the beginning of 2018. "I don't want to be like those guys that, two or three years into their contract, they do really good and then they don't care. I do care. … That's how I want to be remembered, as a guy that was productive in this game, not a guy that just feels comfortable because he gets the money."

Video: SEA@TEX: Cano hits first home run as a Mariner

6. David Price, Red Sox: 7 years, $217 million (2016-22)
The largest free-agent contract ever awarded to a pitcher belongs to Price, who joined a small group of $200 million pitchers -- Zack Greinke, Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw are the others -- when he went to Boston in the offseason of 2015. The left-hander was 29 when he signed the deal after spending his first eight Major League seasons with the Rays (with whom he won the AL Cy Young Award in '12), Tigers and Blue Jays.

For a while, Price wasn't always the most popular player with Red Sox fans -- especially due to postseason struggles and a verbal altercation with NESN broadcaster and Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley in 2017 -- but he reversed all those narratives in the 2018 World Series. Price was brilliant in winning both Game 2 and the clinching Game 5 over the Dodgers, leading the Red Sox to their fourth championship in 15 seasons.

Video: WS2018 Gm5: Price retires 14 straight in WS clincher

7. Prince Fielder, Tigers: 9 years, $214 million (2012-20)
Fielder was one of the game's premier power hitters when he signed his blockbuster deal with Detroit entering his age-28 season, the largest contract the Tigers had ever given out. Fielder was coming off five straight seasons of at least 30 home runs with the Brewers, including 46 in '09 and 50 in '07. His first year in Detroit, Fielder teamed up with Miguel Cabrera to slug the Tigers to the AL pennant, although they were swept by the Giants in the World Series. Detroit reached the ALCS again in '13.

Fielder was an All-Star in both of his two seasons in Detroit -- although some Tigers fans weren't happy with the size of his contract, as his home run totals were "only" 30 in 2012 and 25 in '13 -- before Detroit traded him to the Rangers for Ian Kinsler in an offseason blockbuster. Fielder had one excellent season in Texas in 2015, helping lead the Rangers to the playoffs, but his health ultimately failed him. Neck injuries forced Fielder into early retirement in 2016.

Video: ALCS Gm5: Fielder singles up the middle in the first

8. Max Scherzer, Nationals: 7 years, $210 million (2015-21)
Scherzer has been everything the Nationals could have wanted and more through four seasons. He won back-to-back NL Cy Young Awards in 2016-17, led the Nats to a pair of postseason appearances, made four All-Star teams and eclipsed 30 starts, 200 innings and 250 strikeouts with a sub-3.00 ERA in all four seasons in D.C.

When Scherzer signed with Washington entering his age-30 season in 2015, he had just emerged as one of the game's top aces. He'd led the AL in wins with the Tigers two years running, and he'd won the AL Cy Young Award in 2013. But there were a lot of questions whether he was worth the money. His track record as a star pitcher wasn't very long, and $200-plus million was a ton of money to be offering a pitcher who was about to be in his 30s. It's amazing how Scherzer has more than lived up to the contract.

Video: Scherzer wins second straight NL Cy Young Award

9. Zack Greinke, D-backs: 6 years, $206.5 million (2016-21)
Greinke's sensational 2015 with the Dodgers -- he went 19-3 with a Major League-leading 1.66 ERA in one of the best pitching seasons since MLB lowered the mound in 1969 -- helped make him a $200 million man in free agency. Even with Greinke being a 12-year veteran entering his age-32 season, Arizona shelled out the big bucks to have him front its starting rotation.

Greinke had some ups and downs in his first season in Arizona in 2016, but since then, he's returned to form as one of the better pitchers in the NL. In 2017, he led the D-backs to their first postseason berth since 2011, going 17-7 with a 3.20 ERA and 215 strikeouts en route to a fourth-place finish in the NL Cy Young Award voting.

Video: ARI@LAD: Greinke tosses a gem against the Dodgers

10. Jason Heyward, Cubs: 8 years, $184 million (2016-23)
Statistically, Heyward has not been a $180 million player with the Cubs. But with him playing a Gold Glove Award-winning right field, the Cubs won the 2016 World Series for their first championship in 108 years. (Heyward even gave the team an impassioned speech during the rain delay entering extra innings of the winner-take-all Game 7.) That ring goes a long way toward softening the idea of giving that large of a contract to a player who's a premier outfield defender but a well below-average hitter.

Video: WS2016 Gm7: Heyward on calling a team meeting

Total value isn't the only way to look at player contracts, as the length of the deal also matters. Here's a list of the biggest MLB free-agent contracts by the amount they were worth per year.

Top 10 free-agent contracts by average annual value

1. Zack Greinke, D-backs: $34,416,666 (2016-21)
2. David Price, Red Sox: $31 million (2016-22)
3 (tie). Manny Machado, Padres: $30 million (2019-28)
3 (tie). Max Scherzer, Nationals: $30 million (2015-21)
5. Roger Clemens, Yankees: $28,000,002 (2007)
6 (tie). Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: $27.5 million (2008-17)
6 (tie). Yoenis Cespedes, Mets: $27.5 million (2017-20)
8. Jon Lester, Cubs: $25,833,333 (2015-20)
9. Alex Rodriguez, Rangers: $25.2 million (2001-10)
10 (tie). Josh Hamilton, Angels: $25 million (2013-17)
10 (tie). Yoenis Cespedes, Mets: $25 million (2016-18)
10 (tie). Jake Arrieta, Phillies: $25 million (2018-20)

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

Who were highest-paid players through history?

Machado newest star to hold title of baseball's richest free agent
MLB.com

For the first time since the beginning of the millennium, Major League Baseball will have a new name atop the list of highest-paid free agents.

Manny Machado agreed to a 10-year, $300 million deal with the Padres on Tuesday, a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. That will make him baseball's highest-paid free agent ever. Bryce Harper could still sign an even bigger deal and surpass Machado, but for now the No. 1 spot will belong to the superstar shortstop, who inherits it from another: Alex Rodriguez, who had held the title since he signed his first megadeal with the Rangers in 2001.

For the first time since the beginning of the millennium, Major League Baseball will have a new name atop the list of highest-paid free agents.

Manny Machado agreed to a 10-year, $300 million deal with the Padres on Tuesday, a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. That will make him baseball's highest-paid free agent ever. Bryce Harper could still sign an even bigger deal and surpass Machado, but for now the No. 1 spot will belong to the superstar shortstop, who inherits it from another: Alex Rodriguez, who had held the title since he signed his first megadeal with the Rangers in 2001.

Below are all the previous "standard bearers" in that department -- the progressive list of the highest-paid MLB free agents -- dating back to the beginning of MLB free agency in December 1975.

Note: This list considers free-agent contracts only, and not contract extensions. It is also ranked by the total amount of the contract and not average annual value (AAV), another popular method of ranking contracts. This list also excludes Hall of Fame pitcher Catfish Hunter, who was made a free agent and signed with the Yankees in December 1974 -- a year before the official dawn of free agency -- when his contract with the A's was voided following a salary dispute.

2019: Manny Machado, Padres -- 10 years, $300 million
Machado will be the first $300 million free agent in MLB history thanks to the deal he's reportedly agreed to with San Diego. No free agent in the history of the four major North American professional sports has ever signed a contract that big. The 26-year-old Machado got his deal coming off a season in which he hit .297 with 37 home runs and 107 RBIs, and he's already a four-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glover. The future looks bright.

Video: NLCS Gm1: Machado belts a solo homer to left-center

2008: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees -- 10 years, $275 million
Before Machado, A-Rod was the longtime record-holder, most recently under the blockbuster new deal he negotiated with the Yankees before the 2008 season. Rodriguez's $275 million contract broke the record that had previously been held… also by A-Rod, under his first blockbuster contract -- the one he signed with the Rangers at the beginning of 2001.

Video: A-Rod clubs six homers during the 2009 postseason

That Rangers contract had carried over to New York when Rodriguez was traded to the Bronx Bombers in 2004. But Rodriguez controversially opted out of the final three years -- during Game 4 of the 2007 World Series -- before ultimately re-signing with the Yankees in December. Rodriguez would say that, "All along, I knew I wanted to be a Yankee."

2001: Alex Rodriguez, Rangers -- 10 years, $252 million
When A-Rod signed the first of his two multi-hundred-million contracts, it was the largest contract awarded in professional sports history, doubling Kevin Garnett's $126 million deal signed with the Timberwolves in the NBA in 1997. The blockbuster signing brought Rodriguez from Seattle to Texas at age 25, after he emerged as a superstar shortstop with the Mariners.

Even though the Rangers would go on to trade Rodriguez to the Yankees after three seasons, Rodriguez played up to his historic contract. He capped his tenure in Texas by winning the American League MVP Award in 2003, and averaged 52 home runs and 132 RBIs in a Rangers uniform, leading the American League in homers every year.

Video: Rockies sign Hampton at 2001 Winter Meetings

2001: Manny Ramirez, Red Sox -- 8 years, $160 million
This was really just a placeholder in the 2000-01 offseason, between Mike Hampton and Alex Rodriguez. When Manny signed his deal with the Red Sox in December, everyone already knew A-Rod was going to be baseball's first $250 million man. But that deal wasn't official until January. (News of Ramirez's deal actually broke less than 24 hours after A-Rod's.) In Boston, Manny was Manny -- and an elite hitter in the AL for the better part of the next decade who won two World Series rings with the Red Sox. 

2001: Mike Hampton, Rockies -- 8 years, $121 million
Hampton held the record for only a short time, as A-Rod finalized his contract with the Rangers just weeks later. But he topped the $116.5 million contract extension Ken Griffey Jr. had signed with the Reds a year earlier and the $105 million free-agent contract another pitcher, Kevin Brown, had signed with the Dodgers the year before that. Of course, Hampton's contract is considered one of the worst in free-agent history -- he lasted just two years with the Rockies, with a 5.75 ERA, before he was traded in November 2002.

1999: Kevin Brown, Dodgers -- 7 years, $105 million
Brown was baseball's first $100 million man. After winning a World Series ring with the shock-the-world Marlins in 1997, then helping the Padres reach the '98 Fall Classic after he was traded to San Diego in the Marlins' post-championship selloff, Brown got his megadeal from the Dodgers that December. Brown's deal eclipsed several other big contracts handed out that offseason -- Mike Piazza's $91 million deal to stay with the Mets (Piazza was eligible for free agency but didn't file), Bernie Williams' $87.5 million free-agent contract with the Yankees and Mo Vaughn's $80 million free-agent deal with the Angels. Brown joined the Dodgers entering his age-34 season and went on to have several productive seasons in Los Angeles.

1999: Bernie Williams -- 7 years, $87.5 million
A fan favorite and key member of the late-1990s Yankees dynasty, Williams almost didn't re-sign with the Bronx Bombers after their historic 1998 season. He wanted a seven-year contract, but the Yankees were only offering five. They almost even lost Williams to the rival Red Sox. But after the Orioles made a $65 million offer to Albert Belle, the Bronx Bombers didn't want to lose out on both outfielders, and George Steinbrenner quickly upped his offer to what Williams was looking for. Bernie stayed in New York and played out his entire career in pinstripes.

Video: CWS@TEX: Belle's 16th homer in month of July

1996: Albert Belle, White Sox -- 5 years, $55 million
The baseball world was incensed when the White Sox offered Belle significantly more money than any other club was willing to offer, but that wasn't team owner Jerry Reinsdorf's concern. The South Siders had just seen Belle torment their club with the Indians, cresting with the first (and still only) 50-double, 50-homer season in 1995 and then 48 homers and 148 RBIs the following season.

"It is perfectly fiscally responsible for us to give [Belle] this money," said Reinsdorf. "We have to compete under the system that exists. We have an obligation to our fans to try to win."

Chicago didn't get any closer to a title, but Belle continued to slug on the South Side, nearly replicating his 50-50 feat again in '98 when he hit 48 doubles and 49 homers and drove in 152 runs. But his White Sox tenure ended early thanks to a rare clause in Belle's contract that allowed him to demand that he remain one of the three highest-paid players in each year of the deal. When Belle invoked the clause after that stellar '98 season, the White Sox declined to comply and let him sign with the Orioles in free agency. Just like that, Belle was gone from Chicago.

1992: Barry Bonds, Giants -- 6 years, $43.75 million
"The best should be paid the best," agent Dennis Gilbert said of his client Bonds, and he delivered with a contract worthy of a player coming off two NL MVP Awards in the span of three years. Bonds' total sum shattered baseball's previous high mark of Cal Ripken Jr.'s $32.5 million extension with the Orioles, and his contract brought him back to the city where his father, Bobby, became a star two decades prior.

Video: SF@COL: Bonds hits career homer No. 762

"This agreement will make Barry Bonds the best-paid player in the game," said Giants owner Peter Magowan. "It is a lot of money, but there is only one Barry Bonds."

That statement would prove prescient, as Bonds went on to win five more MVPs, set the all-time home run record and finish with one of the greatest statistical careers in baseball history.

1991: Bobby Bonilla, Mets -- 5 years, $29 million
The Mets signed Eddie Murray and Bonilla in back-to-back weeks, breaking their prior frugal habits with a deal that made Bonilla the highest-paid athlete in North American professional team sports, edging out Knicks center Patrick Ewing by average annual salary. The first baseman made two All-Star teams with the Mets, but ultimately couldn't reach his 1991 zenith, when he finished third in NL MVP voting after pacing the league with 44 doubles and helping the Pirates reach Game 7 of the NLCS.

In 2000, the Mets opted for deferred payments that began in 2011 instead of paying Bonilla the $5.9 million he was owed that season. That means Bonilla receives a paycheck worth nearly $1.2 million every July through the year 2035.

Video: NYY@CLE: Winfield goes deep, admires his homer

1980: Dave Winfield, Yankees -- 10 years and roughly $23 million
It's actually hard to pin down just how much Winfield and Steinbrenner settled on, as the two sides had to be brought back to the negotiating table after there was confusion over the original terms. That was the start of a rocky relationship between the star slugger and owner, as Steinbrenner routinely voiced his displeasure with Winfield's play and was ultimately suspended from baseball after he hired gambler Howard Spira to track down unfavorable details about Winfield.

Through it all, the ultra-athletic Winfield proved to be one of the best hitters of the 1980s, finishing with 205 homers, 818 RBIs and a 134 league-adjusted OPS+ over his nine-year tenure in the Bronx.

1979: Nolan Ryan, Astros -- 4 years, $4.5 million
The Ryan Express became baseball's first million-per-year man with this deal, which brought him to within an hour's drive of his hometown of Alvin, Texas. Ironically, Ryan told the press early in his career that he would buy his own bus ticket to Houston if it meant he could pitch for the Astros.

Video: HOU@MON: Ryan sets Major League strikeout record

Ryan's addition formed a superb rotation in Houston including J.R. Richard, Joe Niekro and eventually Don Sutton, and while the Astros never made the World Series with the local fireballer, he did enjoy plenty of personal highlights. The righty tossed his record fifth career no-hitter on Sept. 26, 1981, and racked up 1,866 strikeouts and compiled a 3.13 ERA while wearing Houston's colorful uniform.

1978: Pete Rose, Phillies -- 4 years, $3.2 million
The hit king received all kinds of offers when he made his first foray into free agency: Oil investments from Royals owner Ewing Kauffman, a $100,000-per-year pension plan for life from the Braves, a Budweiser beer distributorship from the Cardinals and two brood mares from the Pirates. The Phillies' initial offer of three years and $2.1 million was actually the lowest offer Rose received, but former club president Bill Giles convinced a local TV station to contribute $600,000 to the cause.

Rose liked how close the Phillies were to a title, having bowed out in the NLCS in each of the previous three seasons. With Rose in tow at first base, Philadelphia would finally capture its first-ever World Series title in the fall of 1980.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

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

Pitchers with the most consecutive OD starts

MLB.com

For a pitcher to put together a lengthy streak of Opening Day starts, a lot of factors have to come together.

He must be good enough, over a long period of time, to earn the assignments. He must be durable enough to avoid even a minor injury at the wrong time. And he must be fortunate enough not to have a superstar teammate -- or even a highly respected veteran teammate -- grab those starts away.

For a pitcher to put together a lengthy streak of Opening Day starts, a lot of factors have to come together.

He must be good enough, over a long period of time, to earn the assignments. He must be durable enough to avoid even a minor injury at the wrong time. And he must be fortunate enough not to have a superstar teammate -- or even a highly respected veteran teammate -- grab those starts away.

Add those ingredients together and some special things can happen. That is certainly true for the following pitchers who have authored the longest runs of consecutive Opening Day starts.

(All data is since 1908, the first season for which it is available.)

Pitchers with the most Opening Day starts

1. Jack Morris (14 straight starts, 1980-93)
Morris' 14 career Opening Day starts are tied for second in history, and not only did they come in consecutive years, but they also came with three teams. The right-hander got his first 11 with the Tigers, then followed that with one for the Twins and two for the Blue Jays. During that 14-year span, just four other pitchers started even half as many times on Opening Day.

Morris usually rose to the challenge, posting a career ERA of 3.39 in openers. He is one of only two pitchers -- along with Rick Mahler -- to record at least three complete-game victories on Opening Day since 1980.

2. (tie) Robin Roberts (12 straight starts, 1950-61)
Roberts started one other Opening Day -- for the Astros in 1966 -- but his entire streak came with the Phillies. That makes him the record holder for the most consecutive openers by a pitcher with the same team.

The right-hander made six of his 13 career Opening Day starts against the Dodgers, including two that bookended his streak. As a 23-year-old in 1950, Roberts gave up just one run (scored by Jackie Robinson) in a complete-game win over Brooklyn. As a 34-year-old in '61, he was outdueled by Don Drysdale in Los Angeles. And in between, Roberts started the Dodgers' final Opening Day before leaving New York, giving up seven runs in a complete-game 12-inning loss in '57.

2. (tie) Tom Seaver (12 straight starts, 1968-79)
The all-time leader in total Opening Day starts (16), Seaver appropriately began his streak in 1968, the legendary Year of the Pitcher. At the time, the 23-year-old Tom Terrific was the reigning National League Rookie of the Year Award winner with the Mets.

After stringing together 10 consecutive openers with the Mets, Seaver was traded to the Reds midway through the 1977 season. He took the ball in Game 1 for Cincinnati in each of the next two seasons, but he gave way in '80, ending a streak that included four starts with no more than one run allowed.

4. (tie) Felix Hernandez (10 straight starts, 2009-18)
In 2018, King Felix extended the longest active streak in the Majors, one that began two days shy of his 23rd birthday. The righty held the Twins to one run over eight innings that day, on his way to his first All-Star selection. Hernandez followed that up the next year by allowing three earned runs -- his career-high in an opener -- but Seattle still beat Oakland, and he went on to capture the American League Cy Young Award.

During his streak, Hernandez has allowed no more than one earned run six times, including a scoreless outing against the Indians to begin 2018. Overall on Opening Day, he owns a sparkling 1.53 ERA and 0.77 WHIP.

4. (tie) Steve Carlton (10 straight starts, 1977-86)
The only thing standing in the way of Carlton putting together a record streak of 15 straight Opening Day starts -- all with the Phillies -- was the club acquiring Jim Kaat from the White Sox before the 1976 season. Even though Carlton did the honors in each of the previous four years, Philly went with the older lefty in Kaat, who was coming off a 20-win All-Star campaign.

However, Carlton outpitched Kaat and won 20 games in 1976, earning back the Opening Day nod the next year and holding onto it through '86, when he was released in June. During that 10-season stretch, Carlton captured the final three of his four NL Cy Young Awards, won 155 games and had a 3.13 ERA.

4. (tie) Walter Johnson (10 straight starts, 1912-21)
Even considering that this was the Deadball Era, the Big Train was an unstoppable locomotive during most of this streak. From 1912-19, the Washington Senators' star pitched 77 innings across eight Opening Day starts, or more than nine frames per outing. He gave up just 51 hits and seven earned runs for a 0.82 ERA.

The streak featured four shutouts, culminating with a 13-inning victory over the Philadelphia Athletics in 1919. That would be the longest shutout recorded in an Opening Day start -- except that Johnson beat his own mark seven years later by tossing 15 scoreless innings against the A's.

4. (tie) Roy Halladay (10 straight starts, 2003-12)
Coming off a breakout season in 2002, Doc toed the rubber in Toronto's first game of '03, and while he struggled that day, he went on to claim the first of his two Cy Young Awards that year. The righty started seven consecutive openers for the Blue Jays, setting an overall club record.

Halladay added three more after his trade to the Phillies in December 2009, and he was in dominant form. Over those three outings, he allowed just two runs on 13 hits in 21 innings, with a 20-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Facing the Pirates in '12, Halladay allowed singles to his first two opponents, then retired 23 of his final 25 -- with the exception of two hit batters.

Video: PHI@WSH: Halladay fans nine in his Phillies' debut

8. (tie) Bob Gibson (nine straight starts, 1967-75)
The Cardinals great made his first and only other Opening Day start in 1965, succeeding Ernie Broglio, who had been traded to the Cubs the previous summer in what became a famous (or infamous) deal for Lou Brock. That first Game 1 outing didn't go well, but when Gibson got another chance, he didn't disappoint.

Gibson struck out 13 Giants in a shutout to begin the 1967 campaign, which ultimately ended with the Hall of Famer earning his second World Series Most Valuable Player Award by allowing just three runs over three complete-game wins against the Red Sox. The following year, he held the Braves without an earned run over seven innings, the first step toward his record 1.12 ERA. From 1967-72, Gibson posted a 1.49 mark over six openers, although St. Louis went just 3-3 in those games.

8. (tie) Randy Johnson (nine straight starts, 1998-2006)
The Big Unit is tied for second with 14 total Opening Day assignments, but he might have put together 15 in a row beginning in 1992 if not for a back injury that cut short his '96 season. The Mariners didn't put Johnson on the mound to begin '97, when he went on to post the best ERA of his career (2.28).

Still, Johnson took the ball first in each of the next nine seasons, a streak that included his final year in Seattle, six in Arizona and two in New York with the Yankees. Over his final eight openers, the five-time Cy Young Award winner produced a 2.20 ERA and struck out 57. The last three of those occurred past his 40th birthday, making him one of five pitchers to start so many Opening Days at that age.

Video: SD@ARI: Big Unit completes Opening Day shutout

8. (tie) CC Sabathia (nine straight starts, 2006-14)
Sabathia started his first two openers for the Indians in 2003-04, and after missing a year, he reeled off nine in a row. The streak began in Cleveland, then continued in New York, where Sabathia signed before the '09 season.

While Sabathia allowed just two runs in 14 innings over his first two Game 1 outings, he didn't fare nearly as well during the streak. Only once out of nine starts did the lefty give up fewer than three earned runs, and he posted a 7.58 ERA overall.

8. (tie) Dennis Martinez (nine straight starts, 1988-96)
The Nicaragua native's first two openers came with the Orioles in 1982-83, but he didn't get another chance until after Baltimore traded him to Montreal in June '86. Following a strong season in '87 that resurrected his career, Martinez took the mound first for the Expos in each of the next six years, and he now ranks behind only Steve Rogers for the most openers started in club history. He made his final three Opening Day starts with the Indians.

Martinez's best Game 1 performance came against the Pirates in 1991, when Barry Bonds' seventh-inning single provided the only hit against him in seven scoreless frames. That performance foreshadowed what Martinez did later that season at Dodger Stadium on July 28, when he became the first pitcher born outside the U.S. to twirl a perfect game.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Who's on the all-time Opening Day starter team?

MLB.com

An Opening Day start is always a thrill, whether a player is getting that honor for the first time or has been doing it for a decade.

And while many in today's game have plenty of experience with it, none make our all-time Opening Day starter team, which features the player with the most such starts at each position (since 1908), according to the Baseball-Reference Play Index. In the event of a tie, the player with the most success in those games was selected.

An Opening Day start is always a thrill, whether a player is getting that honor for the first time or has been doing it for a decade.

And while many in today's game have plenty of experience with it, none make our all-time Opening Day starter team, which features the player with the most such starts at each position (since 1908), according to the Baseball-Reference Play Index. In the event of a tie, the player with the most success in those games was selected.

Pitcher: Tom Seaver (16 starts)
Seaver sits two starts ahead of Steve Carlton, Randy Johnson, Walter Johnson, and Jack Morris. The Hall of Famer got the nod for the Mets every year from 1968-77, after taking National League Rookie of the Year honors in '67, then got six more starts over the next nine seasons for the Reds, Mets and White Sox. Seaver posted a 3.13 ERA in those 16 outings and went on to win a Cy Young Award in three of those campaigns.

Catcher: Ivan Rodriguez (20 starts)
Pudge crushes the field in this category, with four more starts than Benito Santiago and five more than anyone else. Over Rodriguez's 21-year career, he was in the Opening Day lineup every season except his first, when he debuted in June. His initial Game 1 appearance came with the Rangers at age 20 in 1992, when he caught for Nolan Ryan and threw out a young Mariners center fielder named Ken Griffey Jr. on a steal attempt. That season, Rodriguez made the first of 14 All-Star teams and won the first of a record 13 Gold Glove Awards behind the plate. Rodriguez also made Opening Day starts for the Marlins, Tigers, Astros and Nationals through 2011, though he hit only .205/.253/.423 in those games.

Video: TEX@SEA: Pudge throws Griffey out at second

First base: Joe Judge (19 starts)
After debuting in September 1915, Judge started every Opening Day for the rest of his career. The first 17 of those came with the Washington Senators, and the final two with the Dodgers and Red Sox. This was a far different era -- Judge is listed at 5-foot-8 and 155 pounds -- but he still ranks 11th in career starts at first base since 1900. No other player has made more than 16 Opening Day starts at the position going back to 1940.

Second base: Joe Morgan (20 starts)
Over the course of his 22-year Hall of Fame career, Morgan started on Opening Day three more times than any other second baseman. After playing only 18 Major League games from 1963-64, Morgan entered the Game 1 lineup as a 21-year-old the following season -- the year the Houston franchise switched from Colt .45's to Astros -- and stayed there through his age-40 season with the '84 A's. Morgan also made starts for the Giants, the Phillies and of course the Reds over the years, posting a very Morgan-like stat line: .296/.444/.408 with six extra-base hits, eight steals and 10 more walks (18) than strikeouts (eight).

Third base: Brooks Robinson (20 starts)
Not only did the Hall of Famer and 16-time Gold Glove Award winner make two more Opening Day starts at the hot corner than second-place Adrian Beltre, but also he made each of them in an Orioles uniform. The first came in 1957, when Robinson was still a teenager and future World Series-winning manager Whitey Herzog was the starting center fielder and leadoff man for the opposing Washington Senators. The streak continued through '76, as Robinson batted .316/.349/.595 with six home runs and 17 RBIs in those games, leading Baltimore to a 15-5 record.

Shortstop: Omar Vizquel (18 starts)
Luis Aparicio also made 18 from 1956-73, but Vizquel, despite being known more for his glove, also brought his bat on Opening Day. He hit .324/.367/.405 with a homer and six steals in these contests, which included 17 straight from 1991-2007 with the Mariners, Indians and Giants. Amazingly, the 11-time Gold Glove Award winner continued his career through a 24th season in 2012, when he was 45.

Left field: Barry Bonds (19 starts)
Bonds made it into two more Opening Day lineups than any other left fielder and did so in true Bonds fashion by batting .364/.500/.727 with six homers, 12 RBIs, 18 walks (six intentional) and only five strikeouts. The all-time home run leader went 7-for-9 with two homers over his first two openers with the Pirates from 1988-89 and began his record 73-homer campaign with the 2001 Giants by going deep off the Padres' Woody Williams at what was then Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco.

Video: SD@SF: Bonds' first homer of the 2001 season

Center field: Willie Mays (21 starts)
Bonds' godfather started for the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds as a 20-year-old on Opening Day 1952, about six weeks before he was drafted into the Army. He returned for the first game of the '54 season and hit the go-ahead homer in the sixth inning as the Giants beat the Dodgers, 4-3. It was one of seven times Mays went deep over those 21 games, during which he also produced 16 RBIs. Mays' streak continued through '73 when he made his lone Opening Day start for the Mets, after being traded back to New York the previous May. That pushed him past Tris Speaker for the center field record.

Right field: Al Kaline (19 starts)
Although he hit a modest .216/.318/.338 with two home runs on Opening Day, Kaline made two more starts in right than second-place Tony Gwynn. Like Gwynn with the Padres, Kaline was a one-team man, suiting up only for the Tigers during his Hall of Fame career. Kaline's first Game 1 assignment came as a 19-year-old in 1954, and he didn't get his last until '73. No Tigers player since then has made more than seven Opening Day starts at the position.

Designated hitter: David Ortiz (13 starts)
Big Papi took over sole possession of the lead over Don Baylor in his final season, 2016. He would have set the mark a year earlier, except the Sox began their season without a DH and Ortiz manned first base in an NL park in Philadelphia. Ortiz made his first two Game 1 starts for the Twins from 2001-02, homering both times. After Minnesota made the blunder of letting him go, and Boston scooped him up, Ortiz continued his Opening Day exploits. As a DH in openers, Ortiz hit .333/.421/.771 with five home runs in his career.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Pitchers with the most Opening Day starts

MLB.com

An Opening Day start is a special assignment for any pitcher, one that comes with prestige and pageantry.

Hundreds of starters have taken the mound at least once in a season opener. But some have become much more accustomed to it than others.

An Opening Day start is a special assignment for any pitcher, one that comes with prestige and pageantry.

Hundreds of starters have taken the mound at least once in a season opener. But some have become much more accustomed to it than others.

With that in mind, here is a look at the pitchers who have made the most Opening Day starts. (All data is since 1908, the first season for which it is available.)

Pitchers with the most consecutive Opening Day starts

1. Tom Seaver (16 starts)
Tom Terrific's record speaks to both his greatness and his longevity. The right-hander was just 23 years old when he started his first opener for the 1968 Mets, in his second season. Seaver was 41 when he started his last, for the '86 White Sox, in his final season. That makes him one of just 22 pitchers to start at least one Opening Day at 41 or older.

While Seaver started three times for the Reds and twice for the White Sox, his 11 Game 1 assignments for the Mets remains a club record -- three ahead of Dwight Gooden. The Hall of Famer was more than up to the challenge, going 6-0 with a 2.13 ERA and 68 strikeouts in those 11 outings with New York. That included a one-run, nine-strikeout complete game against the Phillies in 1975, when he outdueled the next man on this list.

2. (tie) Steve Carlton (14 starts)
Bob Gibson had a well-deserved stranglehold on Opening Day duties with the Cardinals early in Carlton's career, so it wasn't until Lefty was traded to Philadelphia before the 1972 season that he got a taste of that honor. Carlton made up for lost time, however, making each of his franchise-record 14 Game 1 starts with the Phillies over a 15-year span beginning in '72.

While Carlton pitched well in losing that duel against Seaver in 1975, he wasn't always at his best in openers. The four-time National League Cy Young Award winner went 3-9 with a 4.30 ERA in those outings, compared with 238-152 with a 3.06 ERA during the rest of his Phillies tenure.

2. (tie) Randy Johnson (14 starts)
The fearsome southpaw ranks second in Mariners history with six Opening Day starts and first in D-backs history with the same total, even though he was already 35 when he made his Arizona debut. He also landed the assignment in both of his seasons with the Yankees in 2005-06, becoming one of just six hurlers to start two Opening Days at age 41 or older.

Johnson posted a 2.49 career ERA in openers, and no other pitcher can approach his 107 strikeouts. True to form, he is responsible for two of the four Opening Day starts of 14 or more strikeouts, reaching that mark for Seattle in both 1993 and '96.

Video: SD@ARI: Big Unit completes Opening Day shutout

2. (tie) Walter Johnson (14 starts)
The Big Train holds the all-time shutouts record (110), so it's fitting that he also tops the list on Opening Day (seven). Johnson also ranks first in wins (nine) and innings (124), and his 1.31 ERA is the lowest for any pitcher with at least eight Opening Day starts.

Johnson, who spent his entire 21-year career with the Washington Senators, threw a one-hit shutout in his Opening Day debut as a 22-year-old in 1910. Of his six subsequent shutouts, half lasted extra innings. The longest came in Johnson's penultimate season ('26), when he allowed just six hits while blanking the Philadelphia Athletics for 15 frames.

2. (tie) Jack Morris (14 starts)
From 1980-93, Morris was on the mound for Game 1 every year, setting a record for consecutive Opening Day starts that still stands. The first 11 of those came with the Tigers, before Morris moved to the Twins for one year and the Blue Jays for two.

The righty was stellar in season openers (3.39 ERA), completing five games and throwing at least eight innings eight times. Coincidentally, one of his shortest and least effective outings (4 2/3 innings, seven runs) came for Minnesota in 1991, a season that ended with Morris authoring one of the most famous postseason performances in history, a 10-inning shutout of the Braves in Game 7 of the World Series.

Video: Morris on the promise of starting anew on Opening Day

6. (tie) Roger Clemens (13 starts)
By the time the Rocket took the mound on Opening Day for the first time in 1988, he already had claimed two of his record seven American League Cy Young Awards in the two previous seasons. Clemens went on to make his first eight Game 1 starts with the Red Sox, the most in club history.

Clemens also did the honors once for the Blue Jays and four times for the Yankees. In his final Opening Day outing for New York against Toronto in 2003, the 40-year-old became the third-oldest pitcher to throw at least six scoreless innings in an opener.

6. (tie) Robin Roberts (13 starts)
Roberts' 12 consecutive Opening Day starts for the Phillies from 1950-61 remains a record for any pitcher with the same team, and the Hall of Famer added one more with the '66 Astros in his final season.

While Roberts had his share of Game 1 clunkers, he also twirled four complete-game victories in which he allowed no more than two runs. The NL complete-games leader every year from 1952-56, Roberts also began the '57 campaign with a performance that looks bizarre by modern standards. Facing the Dodgers in Philadelphia, he took a complete-game loss, throwing 190 pitches over 12 innings despite allowing seven runs.

8. (tie) Grover Cleveland Alexander (12 starts)
After a terrific rookie season with the Phillies in 1911 (28-13, 2.57 ERA), Alexander started five of the team's next six Opening Days in the Deadball Era's offensively suppressed environment. The Hall of Fame righty struggled in his first try, but then he strung together four straight complete-game victories.

Traded to the Cubs at the end of 1917, Alexander started on Opening Day in his Chicago debut but soon entered the Army, fighting overseas in World War I. He returned too late for the opening of the '18 season, but he went on to get six more Game 1 assignments in the 1920s with the Cubs and Cardinals, despite the physical and mental toll of battle. Alexander remains the oldest pitcher to record a complete-game victory on Opening Day, having accomplished the feat more than a month past his 42nd birthday for the '29 Cardinals.

8. (tie) Bert Blyleven (12 starts)
Blyleven pitched for five teams over his 22 seasons in the Majors (Twins, Rangers, Pirates, Indians and Angels), and he started on Opening Day at least once for each of them. He is one of just three pitchers to start an opener for five clubs, along with Gaylord Perry and Livan Hernandez (counting the Expos and Nationals separately).

The Hall of Famer's Opening Day outings spanned generations. Blyleven's first, for the Twins in 1972, came shortly after his 21st birthday and saw him suit up with a late-career Harmon Killebrew. His last, for the Angels in '90, came just after his 39th birthday and saw him serve up a home run to 20-year-old Mariners phenom Ken Griffey Jr.

10. (tie) Felix Hernandez (11 starts)
Hernandez was just shy of his 21st birthday when he made his first Opening Day start, striking out 12 A's over eight scoreless innings in 2007 to become the second-youngest pitcher with at least a dozen Ks in an opener. That was just the beginning of King Felix's rich Opening Day history.

After Erik Bedard got the ball over Hernandez in 2008, the right-hander reeled off 10 consecutive Game 1 outings through '18. In his 11 total starts, Hernandez has led the Mariners to nine victories while never allowing more than three earned runs and posting double-digit strikeouts three times. His 1.53 ERA ranks third among the 36 pitchers with at least eight such starts.

Video: Felix set for 11th Opening Day start, 10th in a row

10. (tie) CC Sabathia (11 starts)
Sabathia did the honors five times in six years for the Indians from 2003-08. Upon joining the Yankees the next year, he then reeled off a streak of six straight openers through '14. That left the lefty one Game 1 start shy of the club record, held by Whitey Ford, Ron Guidry and Mel Stottlemyre.

Unfortunately for Sabathia, openers have not proved to be his forte. His 6.12 ERA is the second highest among the 60 pitchers who have made at least seven Opening Day starts, behind only Phil Niekro's 7.31. Sabathia's team has gone 3-8 in those games.

10. (tie) Fergie Jenkins (11 starts)
Jenkins leads the Cubs with seven Opening Day starts, one ahead of Carlos Zambrano. The first six of those came between 1967-73, including Jenkins' NL Cy Young Award season in '71, which he began with a 10-inning complete-game victory over the Cardinals. The righty later started four openers for the Rangers and Red Sox, but he logged one more with Chicago in his final season ('83), when he was 40 years old.

Jenkins was a dependable Opening Day performer, posting a 2.58 ERA and allowing more than two runs just twice in 11 outings. In a span of four openers for the Cubs from 1970-73, he pitched 31 innings and allowed just six runs (1.74 ERA) and three walks.

10. (tie) Dennis Martinez (11 starts)
El Presidente became the first Major Leaguer from Nicaragua in 1976, and he is the only pitcher from that country to start more than once on Opening Day. He didn't get his first chance to do so until 1982-83, when he took the mound in back-to-back years for the Orioles at ages 27-28.

However, Martinez made most of his Game 1 starts later in his career. His nine openers at age 33 and older tie Carlton and Randy Johnson for the record, and he is among the 20 oldest pitchers to start one, having been just shy of his 42nd birthday with the 1996 Indians.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Best Opening Day games ever

Looking back at MLB's most memorable season openers
MLB.com

Opening Day has a unique magic to it, no matter what happens on the field. But some games especially live up to the billing and become instant classics.

MLB.com takes a look at some of the most memorable season openers to ever take place. Here are a dozen of the best Opening Day games in Major League history.

Opening Day has a unique magic to it, no matter what happens on the field. But some games especially live up to the billing and become instant classics.

MLB.com takes a look at some of the most memorable season openers to ever take place. Here are a dozen of the best Opening Day games in Major League history.

April 18, 1923: Yankees 4, Red Sox 1
In 1923, the Yankees would win the first of their Major League-record 27 World Series championships. But the season was special from the beginning: Opening Day for the Yanks was also the grand opening of the original Yankee Stadium. The ballpark, of course, became known as "The House That Ruth Built." And before the first game ever played there, the Babe said, "I'd give a year of my life if I could hit a home run on opening day of this great new park."

The Yankees legend delivered. Ruth christened Yankee Stadium with a three-run homer that made the difference in the Bronx Bombers' 4-1 win over the Red Sox.

April 14, 1925: Indians 21, Browns 14
The highest-scoring game in Opening Day history for a single team took place in 1925. That April 14, the Indians opened their season with a 21-14 win over the St. Louis Browns, and boy was the game wild.

This was no blowout win for Cleveland. It was a back-and-forth affair that saw the Indians jump out to a 7-1 lead, only for the Browns to rally to tie the game at 9 … in the fifth inning. St. Louis scored four more times in the sixth to take a 13-9 lead. And then the fun really began. The Indians scored 12 runs in the top of the eighth, with the go-ahead blow a three-run homer off the bat of Hall of Famer Tris Speaker. But maybe the strangest part of the game? The Browns committed a whopping 10 errors -- tying the Major League record for a single game -- including five in the 12-run eighth. Eleven of those runs were unearned.

April 13, 1926: Senators 1, Athletics 0 (15 innings)
Walter Johnson wasn't just one of the greatest pitchers of all-time, he was also one of the best ever on Opening Day. The Big Train started 14 season openers for Washington in his Hall of Fame career, and in those games, he tossed a Major League-record seven shutouts. His performance on Opening Day 1926, though, was simply mind-boggling.

At age 38, Johnson held the Athletics scoreless for 15 innings, allowing only six hits to a lineup that included Hall of Famers Al Simmons and Mickey Cochrane. But he was matched by Philadelphia starter Eddie Rommel, who kept the game scoreless into the 15th himself. Finally, in the bottom of the 15th, Hall of Famer Bucky Harris singled for Washington, Goose Goslin -- another Hall of Famer -- doubled him to third and Joe Harris singled him home for the winning run.

April 16, 1940: Indians 1, White Sox 0
The fans in attendance at Comiskey Park on Opening Day in 1940 got to witness an historic game: The only no-hitter in MLB Opening Day history, thrown by Hall of Famer Bob Feller. He was sensational on an appropriately blustery day in the Windy City. Feller was just 21 years old at the time, and this was the first of three no-hitters he would throw in his career.

The game's only run came on Rollie Hemsley's two-out RBI triple in the fourth inning. With the tying run aboard in the ninth inning, Indians second baseman Ray Mack made a lunging stop for the game's final out.

Video: Revisiting the only Opening Day no-no in MLB history

April 15, 1947: Dodgers 5, Braves 3
Opening Day for the Dodgers in 1947 was one of the most important games in the history of the sport -- it was the day Jackie Robinson made his Major League debut, breaking baseball's color barrier.

With 26,623 on hand at Brooklyn's Ebbets Field, many wearing "I'm for Jackie Robinson" buttons, the Dodgers rallied from a run down in the bottom of the seventh inning, scoring three times and holding on for a 5-3 win. Robinson scored the go-ahead run.

Video: Robinson breaks the color barrier on Opening Day 1947

April 4, 1974: Reds 7, Braves 6
This game was most memorable as the setting for a historic moment: Hank Aaron's 714th career home run. Aaron entered the year just one shy of Babe Ruth's all-time record, and he didn't make baseball fans wait long. Hammerin' Hank tied the Bambino with a first-inning drive at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium.

But the rest of the game was exciting, too. The Braves held a 6-2 lead entering the eighth inning, but the Big Red Machine suddenly churned into high gear. Hall of Famer Tony Perez cracked a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to pull the Reds within a run, and with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Pete Rose roped a double to center field to tie the game. And in the bottom of the 11th, Charlie Hustle doubled again, then scampered home with the game-winning run on a wild pitch.

April 8, 1975: Mets 2, Phillies 1
This was a good old-fashioned pitchers' duel between two of the best to ever take the mound: Tom Seaver and Steve Carlton. Tom Terrific made more Opening Day starts than any other pitcher in MLB history, 16, and this one at Shea Stadium was his best of the bunch. He held the Phillies to one run in nine innings and struck out nine. But Carlton, who made 14 Opening Day starts himself, was just as good until the bottom of the ninth. The Mets finally got to him for the winning run, with Joe Torre the man who knocked it in.

This wasn't the first time Seaver and Carlton squared off on Opening Day, and it wouldn't be the last. The two Hall of Famers faced each other five times in season openers, and they never disappointed. In those five Opening Day games -- in 1973, '74, '75, '81 and '83 -- Seaver had a 1.19 ERA and Carlton had a 2.91 ERA, and Seaver's team won four of the five games.

March 31, 1996: Mariners 3, White Sox 2
The Mariners' season opener at the Kingdome in 1996 featured signature performances by a slew of baseball's biggest names. The game started with Randy Johnson on the mound, but he was rudely greeted by Frank Thomas -- the Big Hurt crushed a two-run homer off the Big Unit in the first inning to give Chicago an early lead.

But Johnson dominated the rest of the way. Those runs were the only ones he allowed in seven innings, and he struck out 14 -- one of two career Opening Day starts in which he had 14 K's (tied for second most by any pitcher in a season opener). But the Mariners still trailed by a run entering the bottom of the ninth, until Edgar Martinez came through with the game-tying double. The score stayed tied until the 12th, when a 20-year-old Alex Rodriguez -- just starting his first full Major League season -- lined a walk-off single to give Seattle the win.

April 4, 2005: Rockies 12, Padres 10
There was no lack of offense or lead changes in this Opening Day affair at Coors Field in 2005. The Rockies jumped out to a 7-3 lead through five innings, but the Padres scored five in the top of the sixth to take an 8-7 lead. Colorado quickly tied the game in the bottom of the sixth on a base hit by Todd Helton -- only for San Diego to retake the lead on a pair of solo homers in the top of the seventh. By that time, the two teams had combined for seven home runs in the game -- and there were more fireworks to come.

The Padres held onto their 10-8 lead entering the bottom of the ninth, when they sent in Hall of Fame closer Trevor Hoffman to try for the save. Hoffman got two outs, but the Rockies would not go down. Cory Sullivan pulled them to within one with an RBI double, and the next batter, Aaron Miles, tied the score with a single. Finally, Clint Barmes stepped in against Hoffman, and launched a walk-off two-run homer to give Colorado a crazy win.

Video: SD@COL: Barmes hits walk-off homer on Opening Day

March 31, 2011: Dodgers 2, Giants 1
On Opening Day 2011, Clayton Kershaw was 23 years old, not yet an All-Star or a Cy Young Award winner, and he was stepping into a marquee matchup in his first Opening Day start. The Dodgers were facing the rival Giants, who had just won their first of three World Series this decade, and opposite Kershaw was Tim Lincecum, who had already won two Cy Young Awards and had won both of his 2010 World Series starts.

And wow, Kershaw and Lincecum put on a show. Lincecum allowed just one run in seven innings, and it was unearned, scoring on a botched pickoff play. But Kershaw was untouchable. He spun seven scoreless innings of four-hit ball and struck out nine, outdueling Lincecum for the win. He'd go on to win pitching's Triple Crown and take home his first Cy Young Award that year.

Video: SF@LAD: Kershaw fans nine in seven scoreless innings

April 6, 2012: Rays 7, Yankees 6
The Rays' 2012 opener against the Yankees at The Trop wasn't just a matchup of AL East foes. It was the clubs' first meeting after their legendary Game 162 the previous season. From the last game of one season to the first game of the next, the two teams kept up the drama. Opening Day 2012 started with a first-inning grand slam by Carlos Pena off CC Sabathia, but the Yanks quickly came back to take the lead in the third on a three-run shot by Raul Ibanez off James Shields. Down 6-5 entering the bottom of the ninth, Tampa Bay faced Mariano Rivera … and came out on top. Ben Zobrist tied the score with an RBI triple off the great closer, and after the Yankees intentionally walked the bases loaded, the game fell on Pena's shoulders. He delivered a long walk-off single to give the Rays the 7-6 win.

Video: NYY@TB: Yanks fall in the ninth on a walk-off single

April 2, 2017: D-backs 6, Giants 5
This game looked like it would be a pitchers' duel, pitting two aces against each other in Madison Bumgarner and Zack Greinke. At first, Bumgarner was the one who stole the show. He dazzled on the mound, racking up 11 strikeouts in seven innings and outlasting his counterpart Greinke. And Bumgarner had a historic day at the plate -- he slugged two home runs, becoming the first pitcher ever to homer twice on Opening Day.

Video: SF@ARI: Bumgarner homers twice, K's 11 on Opening Day

But the D-backs got the last laugh. Trailing by a run in the bottom of the ninth, they strung together a comeback against Giants closer Mark Melancon. With two outs and nobody on, Jeff Mathis doubled, and Daniel Descalso followed with the game-tying single. Two batters later, Chris Owings came through with a walk-off base hit.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

Best Opening Day winning percentage

Which MLB teams have been the best in season openers?
MLB.com

Hope springs eternal for every Major League team on Opening Day. The long march to the World Series begins with Game No. 1.

MLB.com is taking a look at the clubs that have done the best job of getting off on the right foot. Here are the best MLB teams on Opening Day, ranked by winning percentage (per the Elias Sports Bureau, ties are discounted from calculating a team's win percentage).

Hope springs eternal for every Major League team on Opening Day. The long march to the World Series begins with Game No. 1.

MLB.com is taking a look at the clubs that have done the best job of getting off on the right foot. Here are the best MLB teams on Opening Day, ranked by winning percentage (per the Elias Sports Bureau, ties are discounted from calculating a team's win percentage).

1. Mets: .649 (37-20)
The Mets' spot at No. 1 on this list is all the more impressive when you consider that the franchise lost its first eight Opening Day games from its inception in 1962. (Even the 1969 Miracle Mets lost their season opener.) Since then, the Mets have won 37 of 49 openers, including the first game of their other World Series-winning season in 1986. That amazin' run makes the Mets' Opening Day record the best all-time of any Major League franchise. Some of their most memorable moments involve franchise icons: Gary Carter's walk-off home run on Opening Day 1985 and Tom Seaver's return to the Mets on Opening Day 1983, six years after his shocking trade to the Reds, when he outdueled Steve Carlton.

Video: Tom Seaver returns to New York on Opening Day 1983

2. Orioles: .598 (70-47-1)
The Orioles are one of the American League's eight original charter franchises, founded along with the league in 1901 as the first Milwaukee Brewers before they spent a half-century as the St. Louis Browns. They've remarkably sustained their Opening Day success for well over a century. Baltimore's first two world championship seasons in 1966 and 1970 both started with a win on Opening Day. Baltimore will enter 2019 having won eight straight openers. Orioles Hall of Famer Frank Robinson is tied for the most home runs hit on Opening Day, with eight.

Video: TOR@BAL: Trumbo smashes a walk-off homer in the 11th

3. Mariners: .595 (25-17)
The Mariners have only been around as an MLB franchise since 1977, but they started strong by winning eight of their first 10 Opening Day games. They've done well in recent openers as well, taking nine straight from 2007-15. Seattle has also had two of the best Opening Day pitchers of all-time -- Randy Johnson had an MLB-record 107 strikeouts on Opening Day (including two 14-K starts for the Mariners), and Felix Hernandez has a career 1.54 ERA on Opening Day while ranking fourth all-time with 78 strikeouts. Ken Griffey Jr. is the player tied with Robinson atop the career Opening Day home run chart.

Video: SEA@OAK: Felix goes the distance for the win

4. D-backs: .571 (12-9)
The D-backs won a thriller on Opening Day 2017, rallying for two runs in the ninth inning against Giants closer Mark Melancon for a walk-off win. It was the beginning of a thrilling season, as Arizona made the playoffs for the first time since 2011. The D-backs' memorable 2001 World Series run also began with an Opening Day win -- Randy Johnson struck out 10 Dodgers, and Luis Gonzalez hit the go-ahead homer in the seventh inning, his first of 57 that year. The Big Unit also threw a shutout for the D-backs on Opening Day the following year.

Video: SD@ARI: Big Unit completes Opening Day shutout

5. Yankees: .557 (64-51-1)
The Yankees snapped a six-year Opening Day losing streak in 2018, thanks to a two-homer debut from Giancarlo Stanton. Overall, the most storied franchise in Major League Baseball has also been one of its best on Opening Day. Of the Yankees' record 27 World Series championship seasons, 17 have begun with an Opening Day win. That includes their first World Series season in 1923 -- when Opening Day was also the grand opening of the original Yankee Stadium. On that day, Babe Ruth delivered the three-run blast that led New York over the Red Sox.

Video: NYY@TOR: Soriano's first career grand slam

6. Giants: .556 (75-60-1)
The Giants are one of MLB's oldest franchises, playing their first National League game as the New York Gothams in 1883. They won that game, 7-5, over the Boston Beaneaters (the team that became the Braves), and have won a lot more since. Only the Cubs have more total wins in the Major Leagues on Opening Day. Among the Giants' best performers in season openers: Juan Marichal (1.73 ERA in 10 Opening Day starts), Willie Mays (seven Opening Day home runs), Orlando Cepeda and Barry Bonds (four Opening Day homers each).

Video: SF@LAD: Bonds gets two HRs, five RBIs on Opening Day

7. Cubs: .546 (77-64-2)
The Cubs entered Opening Day 2016 without a championship in 108 years. Anthony Rizzo opened the scoring with an RBI single in the top of the first inning, Jake Arrieta threw seven shutout innings, Chicago rolled to a 9-0 win over the Angels and never looked back, winning the World Series for the first time since 1908. That 1908 Cubs championship team? They won on Opening Day, too -- led by Hall of Fame double-play combination Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance, as well as Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown. The Cubs' 77 Opening Day wins in MLB play are the most of any team.

Video: CHC@LAA: Arrieta blanks Angels over seven frames

8. Dodgers: .539 (69-59-1)
The Dodgers saw their seven-game win streak on Opening Day end with a 1-0 loss to the Giants to begin 2018, but have excelled in recent years thanks to Clayton Kershaw, who is 5-1 with a 1.05 ERA and 59 strikeouts in eight Opening Day starts. Dodgers legend Sandy Koufax only started one season opener in 1964 -- but, fittingly, he pitched a shutout. A Dodgers Opening Day game also featured one of the most important moments in baseball history: Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with his Major League debut on April 15, 1947, at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn.

Video: Robinson breaks the color barrier on Opening Day 1947

9. Rockies: .538 (14-12)
In the Rockies' quarter-century as a Major League team, they've generally played well in openers. Their first Opening Day win was in 1995, when they also went on to make the playoffs for the first time. That game was a dramatic 14-inning win over the Mets, with Dante Bichette crushing a walk-off three-run homer to give Colorado the 11-9 victory. Among their other victories: a wild 12-10 comeback over the Padres in 2005 capped by Clint Barmes' walk-off homer off Trevor Hoffman.

Video: SD@COL: Barmes hits walk-off homer on Opening Day

10. Pirates: .534 (70-61)
The Pirates round out the quartet of teams with the most Opening Day wins as a Major League club, having reached the 70-win mark along with the Giants, Cubs and Orioles. In a long history filled with iconic players, the Pirates have gotten many strong Opening Day performances -- Honus Wagner, Paul Waner, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and Barry Bonds, for example, have all had multiple Opening Day games for Pittsburgh with three or more hits.

Video: CHC@PIT: Walker hits walk-off home run in 10th

All records include games played for Major League Baseball only. The National League was founded in 1876, and the American League in 1901.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.