Breaking down the offseason’s biggest free agent contracts

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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.

RHP Fairbanks, Rays agree to 3-year, $12 million contract

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Dave Nelson/USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Reliever Pete Fairbanks and the Tampa Bay Rays avoided arbitration when they agreed Friday to a three-year, $12 million contract that could be worth up to $24.6 million over four seasons.

The deal includes salaries of $3,666,666 this year and $3,666,667 in each of the next two seasons. The Rays have a $7 million option for 2026 with a $1 million buyout.

His 2024 and 2025 salaries could increase by $300,000 each based on games finished in the previous season: $150,000 each for 35 and 40.

Tampa Bay’s option price could increase by up to $6 million, including $4 million for appearances: $1 million each for 60 and 70 in 2025; $500,000 for 125 from 2023-25 and $1 million each for 135, 150 and 165 from 2023-25. The option price could increase by $2 million for games finished in 2025: $500,000 each for 25, 30, 35 and 40.

Fairbanks also has a $500,000 award bonus for winning the Hoffman/Rivera reliever of the year award and $200,000 for finishing second or third.

The 29-year-old right-hander is 11-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 15 saves in 111 appearances, with all but two of the outings coming out of the bullpen since being acquired by the Rays from the Texas Rangers in July 2019.

Fairbanks was 0-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 24 appearances last year after beginning the season on the 60-day injured list with a right lat strain.

Fairbanks made his 2022 debut on July 17 and tied for the team lead with eight saves despite being sidelined more than three months. In addition, he is 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA in 12 career postseason appearances, all with Tampa Bay.

He had asked for a raise from $714,400 to $1.9 million when proposed arbitration salaries were exchanged Jan. 13, and the Rays had offered for $1.5 million.

Fairbanks’ agreement was announced two days after left-hander Jeffrey Springs agreed to a $31 million, four-year contract with Tampa Bay that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

Tampa Bay remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.