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Patient GMs often reap rewards in offseason

Late deals by Dodgers, Rockies paid off in 2017
MLB.com @RichardJustice

In a span of six days last offseason, Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich signed the two players -- closer Greg Holland and first baseman Mark Reynolds -- that might very well have gotten his team over the top in its quest to return to the postseason.

Three points to make about those signings:

In a span of six days last offseason, Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich signed the two players -- closer Greg Holland and first baseman Mark Reynolds -- that might very well have gotten his team over the top in its quest to return to the postseason.

Three points to make about those signings:

1. The deals occurred just before Spring Training, long after the Hot Stove had cooled. Holland signed on Jan. 28, Reynolds on Feb. 2.

2. By being patient, Bridich was rewarded. Holland signed an incentive-laden one-year, $6 million deal to prove he was fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. (He's back on the market.) Meanwhile, Reynolds agreed to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training. When Bridich's prized free-agent acquisition, Ian Desmond, got hurt, Reynolds took advantage of the opportunity.

3. The Rockies probably wouldn't have made the postseason for the first time since 2009 without Holland's 41 saves and Reynolds' 30 home runs.

Hot Stove Tracker

Every offseason offers lessons for future offseasons. In this case -- and in a lot of others -- the lesson is that the earliest and most expensive deals sometimes end up being less impactful than the ones done by general managers who combine patience and smart baseball judgments.

Patience is a difficult thing when fans are screaming for action and when a team's marketing staff is anxious to get those ad campaigns underway. Besides that, there is risk that the impact players will be off the market.

On the other hand, check out some of the free-agent signings made after mid-January last offseason:

1. Right-hander Brandon Morrow agreed to a Minor League deal with the Dodgers on Jan. 26. He appeared in 45 games with a 2.06 ERA and a 0.916 WHIP. He made $1.25 million.

Video: Morrow pitches in all seven games of the World Series

2. Right-hander Matt Albers signed a Minor League deal with the Nationals on Jan. 31. For $1.15 million, the Nationals got one of baseball's best relievers: 63 games, 1.62 ERA, 0.852 WHIP.

3. Center fielder Austin Jackson signed a Minor League deal with the Indians on Jan. 25. He hit .318 in 85 games and made one of the great defensive plays of the season in robbing Hanley Ramirez of a home run, then flipping over the Fenway Park fence and into the bullpen. He made $1.5 million.

4. Right-hander Anthony Swarzak signed a Minor League contract with the White Sox on Jan. 23. He appeared in 70 games for the White Sox and Brewers with a 2.33 ERA and a 1.034 WHIP. He made $900,000.

Video: MIL@LAD: Swarzak strikes out Taylor to end the inning

None of these signings raised many eyebrows. Holland was by far the most sought after of the January free agents, but there were questions about his recovery from surgery.

Besides, the real Hot Stove action seemed to have occurred in the first two weeks of December, when Rich Hill, Carlos Beltran, Mark Melancon, Matt Holliday, Mitch Moreland, Dexter Fowler and Aroldis Chapman flew off the market.

That's also when the three most impactful trades occurred -- left-hander Chris Sale to the Red Sox on Dec. 6 and center fielder Adam Eaton to the Nationals and closer Wade Davis to the Cubs on Dec. 7.

Sometimes, general managers don't play this portion of the market because they can't afford the prices (either in money or players). Other times, they believe that by waiting, they can get a player who can produce similar numbers for much less money.

Here's the other lesson about last offseason: Sometimes no deal is the right deal.

Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman got his heavy lifting done by re-signing closer Kenley Jansen, third baseman Justin Turner and Hill. But even after adding Morrow, Freidman still had two prominent holes on his club: leadoff hitter and cleanup hitter.

Those positions were still in doubt on Opening Day, and then, magically, the answers arrived from the Minor Leagues:

1. Center fielder Chris Taylor, who had changed his hitting mechanics during the offseason, was summoned on April 19, and he finished with 34 doubles, 21 home runs, 17 steals and an .850 OPS in 140 games, most of them at the top or the order.

2. Rookie first baseman Cody Bellinger made his Major League debut on April 25. He would hit 39 home runs and be the landslide winner of the National League Rookie of the Year Award.

Video: Cody Bellinger named 2017 NL Rookie of the Year

Friedman said he'd considered lots of options for those two spots, but he never found a deal he was comfortable with. He decided to let the season play out and assess his club again as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approached.

By then, Bellinger and Taylor had taken over those roles splendidly. Friedman's patience served him well, just as it served Bridich and the Rockies well. That's a good reminder for every executive this offseason.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.