Aaron Gleeman

Max Scherzer Getty

Breaking down the offseason’s biggest free agent contracts


Now that James Shields is off the board, signing a four-year deal with the Padres said to be worth around $75 million, we have a clear picture of all the major free agent spending that went on this offseason.

First, here’s how our own Matthew Pouliot ranked this offseason’s free agents in terms of how much he expected them to be desired by teams way back on October 31:

1. Max Scherzer
2. Jon Lester
3. Yasmany Tomas
4. Hanley Ramirez
5. James Shields
6. Pablo Sandoval
7. Russell Martin
8. Victor Martinez
9. Nelson Cruz
10. Chase Headley
11. Ervin Santana

And here’s how this offseason’s free agents rank in terms of actual contract values received:

1. Max Scherzer, $210 million
2. Jon Lester, $155 million
3. Pablo Sandoval, $95 million
4. Hanley Ramirez, $88 million
5. Russell Martin, $82 million
6. James Shields, ~$75 million
7. Yasmany Tomas, $68 million
8. Victor Martinez, $68 million
9. Nelson Cruz, $57 million
10. Ervin Santana, $55 million
11. Chase Headley, $52 million

Those are the 11 free agents who topped $50 million. Pouliot’s top 11 ended up being the same as the actual top 11, although there were some minor changes in the order.

Still, despite having to wait until February 8 and despite all kinds of reports about teams not valuing him as much as everyone expected, Shields ended up more or less where Poulipt predicted and got significantly more money than every other free agent pitcher except for Scherzer and Lester.

Phillies “could move” Cliff Lee during spring training

cliff lee getty

Jayson Stark of ESPN.com spoke to an unnamed executive who says the Phillies “could move” left-hander Cliff Lee as soon as spring training. If he’s healthy, of course.

Lee has been throwing off a mound for a while now and, barring any setbacks, he’s expected to be fully healthy for the start of camp. He’s owed $25 million this season and $27.5 million or a $12 million buyout for 2016, so obviously any interested teams will need to be convinced that he’s over the arm problems that ended his 2014 early.

Before being shut down the former Cy Young winner started 13 games with a 3.65 ERA and 72/12 K/BB ratio in 81 innings, looking more or less like his usual self at age 35.

Royals, Danny Duffy avoid arbitration with one-year deal

Danny Duffy

Left-hander Danny Duffy has avoided arbitration with the Royals, agreeing to a one-year contract worth $2.425 million.

He requested $3 million and the Royals countered at $1.75 million.

Duffy has thrived coming back from Tommy John elbow surgery, posting a 2.44 ERA in 174 total innings since going under the knife in 2012. That includes a 2.53 ERA in 149 innings last season spent mostly as a starter, but the 26-year-old missed the playoffs with a rib injury.

He’ll be a full-time member of Kansas City’s rotation this season.

Reds GM on re-signing Johnny Cueto: “It’s very tough in our market”

Johnny Cueto AP

Johnny Cueto will be a free agent next offseason and has said he won’t negotiate a contract past Opening Day, leading most people to assume that the Reds ace is a goner after this season.

However, general manager Walt Jocketty had a slightly more optimistic viewpoint Thursday during an interview with MLB Network:

With Johnny, we’ll never say “never.” We are going to do everything we can to try and come up with some sort of plan to keep him. I’m not sure we’ll be able to, because the numbers are obviously starting to skyrocket and it’s very tough in our market to continue to retain guys at a high price like that. We’ll continue to work on that and see where it comes out.

When it’s early February and a GM is already going to the “we’re not a big market” quotes regarding an impending free agent that’s a pretty bad sign, although the Reds did hand out a $225 million contract to first baseman Joey Votto recently (and $105 million to Homer Bailey even more recently).

Cueto threw a league-leading 244 innings with a 2.25 ERA and league-high 242 strikeouts last season to finish runner-up in the Cy Young balloting to Clayton Kershaw. He’s under contract for $10 million in 2015 and turns 29 years old next week.

Padres “have to be considered favorites” to sign James Shields

james shields getty

The market for James Shields remains largely a mystery, but Bob Nightingale of USA Today reports that the Padres “have to be considered favorites” to sign the free agent right-hander.

Shields is from California and currently lives in San Diego, and obviously the Padres have shown all offseason that they’re pushing to contend immediately and aren’t afraid of making big moves in an effort to do so.

Other teams being linked to Shields in various reports include the Marlins, Cubs, and Blue Jays. At the beginning of the offseason many people assumed that Shields would top $100 million, but no free agent in baseball history has ever gotten a deal larger than $50 million when signing after February 1. It seems likely that he’ll be the first to crack that mark, but a nine-figure deal may be out of the question at this stage.