Last offseason, two free agents — Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder — signed contracts in excess of $200 million. We didn''t see anyone approach that rare plateau this winter but, thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement, the Hot Stove season was laden with intrigue. Here are the top 13 free agents and where they landed.
— Jon Paul Morosi
Kyle Lohse to Brewers
With just a week to go before the 2013 season opened, Lohse signed a three-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers worth $33 million with roughly $1 million in performance bonuses. He’s an ideal National League pitcher, with terrific strikeout-to-walk ratios, excellent fielding skills and an ability to handle the bat.
Michael Bourn to Indians
The Indians stunned the baseball world on Feb. 11, reaching agreement with the All-Star outfielder on a four-year, $48 million contract. Bourn, 30, also will be guaranteed a fifth year at $12 million if he reaches 550 plate appearances in 2016, bringing the potential value of his package to $60 million.
Rafael Soriano to Nationals
Soriano’s contract with the Yankees was yet another triumph for super-agent Scott Boras. Soriano was the highest-paid setup man in baseball before Mariano Rivera’s season-ending injury elevated him to the closer’s role — just in time for Soriano to exercise the opt-out clause. On Jan. 15, Soriano agreed to a two-year, $28 million contract to head to DC, where he'll take over the closer role. Soriano’s deal includes a $14 million vesting option for 2015, which will trigger if he appears in 120 games over the first two years of the deal.
Adam LaRoche stays with Nationals
On Jan. 8, LaRoche struck a two-year deal to remain with the Nats. He's rarely has been viewed as an elite player, but he’s the best left-handed power hitter in the current free agent class. He’s also the top first baseman in the group, so it wasn’t a surprise when he declined his half of a mutual option with the Nationals. LaRoche is a catch after posting an .853 OPS while winning a Gold Glove in 2012.
Nick Swisher to Indians
The Cleveland Indians finally found somebody willing to take the cash they've been itching to spend. And what's more, Ohio native Nick Swisher seemed downright ecstatic about it. After agreeing to a four-year, $56 million deal, Swisher tweeted "Wow! What a crazy few weeks. Hey Cleveland! Are you ready? Because I’m coming home! #RollTribe."
Edwin Jackson to Cubs
Jackson signed with the Nationals, had a solid season (10-11, 4.03 ERA, 189-2/3 innings) and landed a long-term deal this time at age 29. On Dec. 20, the Chicago Cubs agreed to a four-year, $52 million deal with the right-hander.
Anibal Sanchez re-signs with Tigers
Sanchez’s stock rose, thanks to a strong September and stellar postseason (1-2, 1.77 ERA) for the AL champion Tigers. He was in a much better position than if the Marlins hadn’t traded him in July, because he was able to answer two critical questions: Can he pitch in the AL? (Yes.) Can he pitch in October? (Yes.) The Tigers were able to re-sign him, for five years at $80 million.
Josh Hamilton to Angels
Josh Hamilton agreed to a five-year, $125 million deal with the Angels on Dec. 13, proving that the Dodgers aren't the only L.A. team with deep pockets. Hamilton’s flaws are well known. He has battled drug and alcohol addiction, his long-term durability is in question, and his strikeouts spiked to a career-high 162 this year. But he’s coming off a season in which he played 148 games – second-most in his career – and totaled 43 home runs with 128 RBI and slash line of .285/.354/.577. By any measure, he’s one of the best offensive players in the game.
Zack Greinke to Dodgers
The Angels invested a lot of time and effort in trying to keep Greinke. They parted with three top prospects to acquire him from Milwaukee for the final two months of last season, and they dealt Ervin Santana to Kansas City in an ongoing effort to clear the necessary payroll to sign Greinke. Alas, the Angels lost their prize pitcher to the team across town. The Dodgers landed Greinke on Dec. 9 with a six-year, $147 million deal.
Angel Pagan re-signs with Giants
San Francisco and free-agent center fielder Angel Pagan agreed to a $40 million, four-year contract on Dec. 3, the first day of the winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn. A quiet hero for the Giants all year, Pagan became a strong alternative to more renowned free-agent center fielders Michael Bourn and B.J. Upton. Pagan actually ranked ahead of Bourn and Upton in OPS+ this season, while stealing a comparable number of bases: 29 for Pagan, 31 for Upton, 42 for Bourn.
B.J. Upton to Braves
When he’s hitting home runs and running down balls into the gaps, supporters praise Upton’s talent and gracefulness. When he’s mired in a swing-and-miss slump, critics claim he doesn’t care. Here are the facts: Upton has hit more home runs over the past two seasons – 51 – than all but four center fielders in the sport, and their last names are Granderson, Kemp, Jones and McCutchen. Upton and the Braves agreed to a five-year, $75.25 million deal on Nov. 28.
Hiroki Kuroda re-signs with Yankees
At one point, it was thought that Kuroda only wanted to pitch in the National League and for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Wrong and wrong: Kuroda signed a one-year contract with the Yankees and thrived in the American League, with a 16-11 record and 3.32 ERA in a career-high 219-2/3 innings. He even thrived in the postseason — on short rest — when so many of his teammates foundered. Kuroda, who will pitch at 38 next season, agreed to a one-year, $15 million deal with the Yankees on Nov. 20.
Torii Hunter to Detroit Tigers
Hunter, 37, is at a stage in his career when one-year contracts are commonplace, but instead he secured a two-year deal with Detroit. He was in demand, because of his strong defensive play (as a right fielder), ability to crush left-handed pitching, and energetic clubhouse presence. He’s a career American Leaguer, so it's no surprise he stayed there. Hunter made a two-year, $26 million deal with the Tigers on Nov. 14.