Looking at the past five years, we’ll look at how teams who have signed the top MLB free agent in each class have done during the season.
Each offseason there are a few big free agents that become available on the market. And teams fork over millions of dollars for years on end to land them in hopes of winning a World Series.
But is that really the smartest move for a franchise?
I know the Giants aren’t targeting a top free agent, instead they’re looking to land the best available player this offseason through trade.
But this is still a fun exercise to see how teams who have landed the offseason’s biggest target have done.
We start with the 2012-13 offseason, which gives us one of the worst examples of signing the top free agent. This was the offseason the Los Angeles Angels sign Josh Hamilton to a 5 year, $125 million deal.
Hamilton hit .255 with 31 home runs in 914 at-bats over two seasons with the Angels before he was let go. He hasn’t played in the big leagues in two seasons now.
The Angels did win 98 games and the American League West in 2014, but Hamilton had little do with that success playing in just 89 games that season.
The next offseason it was another AL West team that made a splash when Robinson Cano signed for 10 years and $240 million with the Seattle Mariners.
While Cano has continued to put up MVP-type numbers hitting .295 with 97 home runs over the past four seasons, the Mariners have failed to make the playoffs. Still, they’ve been a competitive team with Cano and still believe they are a few moves away from the playoffs.
In the 2014-15 offseason the Washington Nationals gave Max Scherzer 7 years for $210 million. The Nationals failed to make the postseason the first year they signed Max, but have won their division the past two seasons.
Max has won the Cy Young award the past two seasons as well. He has a 2.76 ERA over 657.2 innings with 828 strikeouts for the Nationals.
Washington has still failed to make it out of the first round of the playoffs, but I don’t think they regret signing Max.
Two offseasons ago the Boston Red Sox inked David Price for 7 years and $217 million. In his first season with the Red Sox he went 17-9, but had a 3.99 ERA in 230 innings with 228 strikeouts.
This past season got off to a bad start with injuries. He made 11 starts and pitched five games out of the bullpen with a 3.38 ERA in 74.2 innings with 76 strikeouts.
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The Red Sox have won the AL East the past two seasons with Price, but his postseason struggles as a starter continue.
And finally, the New York Mets got Yoenis Céspedes last offseason for 4 years and $110 million. He also struggled with injuries in 2017 playing in just 81 games, but he still managed to hit .292 with 17 home runs.
So based on this short sample size, signing the biggest free agents is kind of hit-or-miss. Hamilton is the only exception where a team pretty much got nothing.
Price and Cespedes have both been hampered by injuries, but effective when healthy.
Cano and Sherzer have both been studs and probably worth the contracts they’ve signed.
But none of those signings have led to a World Series.
Yu Darvish is considered the best free agent this offseason by most sites. It will be interesting to see where he ends up and if the trend continues of those teams not winning World Series.
If that’s the case, let’s hope he re-signs with the Dodgers!