There were a lot of baseball free agents roaming around this winter jockeying for positions, and some of them have landed the top contracts in baseball history. We know all about Bryce Harper and his mega-deal with the Phillies, Manny Machado’s windfall with the Padres, and Nolan Arenado’s massive extension with the Rockies. But which of the low-key free agent signings in the 2019 offseason were the best ones? Here’s our top five.
Patrick Corbin goes to Washington
The Nationals want to make a case for the best starting rotation in the game. They’re already paying out $75.7 million for two of the best starters in the game, Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer, and this year they also signed left-hander Patrick Corbin for six years and $140 million. Not bad!
Corbin pitched for the Diamondbacks throughout his major league career, and he made the 2013 and 2018 NL All-Star teams. Last year he finished 11–7 with 200 innings over 33 starts. Corbin notched 246 strikeouts and posted a 3.15 ERA, and he was one of the best free agent signings that flew under the radar.
Hicks sticks with the Yankees
The Yankees were rumored to be part of the Manny Machado sweepstakes, but they didn’t have to look far to find their best offseason signing. Aaron Hicks signed a 7-year, $70 million contract extension, which replaced his one-year, $6 million deal signed in January. Wise move on his part; and probably for the Yankees.
The switch-hitting outfielder had 119 hits, 17 homers, and 79 RBIs last year, which were all-time highs for Hicks.
From D’Backs to Dodgers for Pollock
It’s kind of weird. Los Angeles traded away two right-handed outfielders, Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig, after the 2018 season. Then they picked up A.J. Pollock with a five-year contract, to aide with the lack of right-handed hitting outfielders. Huh?
It’s OK. Some say Kemp and Puig, along with Alex Wood, who were all traded to the Reds, were a reduction in salary payouts. But, Pollock joins the already crowded outfield of Joc Pederson, Chris Taylor, Cody Bellinger, Kiké Hernandez, and Alex Verdugo, although some of them can also play infield. If Pollock can stay away from injuries and the DL (he missed seven weeks with a broken left thumb in 2018 ), his acquisition could give L.A. one of the best free agent signings of the offseason.
Who’s on Third?
A trio of third basemen takes up one spot on our Top Five list. Atlanta picked up Josh Donaldson, Arizona got Eduardo Escobar, and Mike Moustakas stayed with Milwaukee. Combined, the trio make for some of the best free agent signings in baseball.
Having spent the past four years across the northern border in Toronto, Donaldson returns to the U.S. with a one-year, $23 million deal with the Braves. The 33-year-old wants to prove he’s not ready to retire yet. Some argue this may give the Braves the best infield in the NL or in all of baseball this year, with Donaldson alongside Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, and the young Dansby Swanson at short. We’re not sure where this leaves the 25-year-old Johan Camargo, who’s traveled back and forth from the Big Leagues to the minors the past two years.
The D-Backs extended Escobar, whom they obtained in a 2018 trade, for three years to the tune of $31 million. The fact he can play third, short, second and all three outfield positions makes this a prime deal for Arizona. While he isn’t overly vocal with the bat with a .257 career average, Escobar’s fielding is hard to beat.
Fans won’t have to look far to find their “Moose.” Moustakas renewed with Milwaukee for one year at $10 million with a mutual option for 2020. The 30-year-old has a .251 career batting average with 147 homers and 474 RBIs. He’s going to have to share third with Travis Shaw, but the Brewers want that choice and Moustakas’ bat in the lineup.
Another Top Outfielder in Philly
Rounding off our list of the best low-key free agent signings in baseball is Andrew McCutchen to the Phillies. His contract signing in December got squelched by the noise of Harper’s deal with the team, but we still feel McCutchen’s signing to be a good move on Philadelphia’s part. The long-time Pirate turned Giant turned Yankee netted a three-year, $50 million contract, and he’s worth every dime.
The outfielder has earned nearly every award in the book: Rookie of the Year in 2009, NL MVP in 2013, five All-Star games, four Silver Slugger wins, one Gold Glove, and the Roberto Clemente Award.
Who else could jump up as one of the best free agent signings?
We’re still anxiously awaiting to hear of at least one more top placement before opening day. Former Houston pitcher Dallas Keuchel is still on the market, and the team that lands him could join our list of the best free agent signings.
Starters Gio Gonzalez and Yovani Gallardo and reliever Craig Kimbrel are pitchers still on the open market. Several outfielders, such as Adam Jones, Austin Jackson, and Carlos Gonzalez, are still looking for work (as of March 11, 2019).