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.

Nationals complete NLCS sweep of Cardinals, punch ticket to World Series

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The Nationals will officially appear in the World Series for the first time in franchise history. The team that had a 19-31 record in late May, putting manager Dave Martinez on the hot seat, improbably fought back to snag a Wild Card slot, won the play-in game, beat the heavily-favored Dodgers in five games in the NLDS, and polished off a sweep of the Cardinals in the NLCS on Tuesday night, winning 7-4.

After Patrick Corbin tossed a scoreless top of the first inning, the Nationals’ offense wasted no time getting to work. Single, double, sacrifice fly, RBI double, intentional walk, reach on error, RBI single, two-run single, sacrifice bunt, two-run single. That’s how the Nats hung a seven-spot in the opening frame against Dakota Hudson and Adam Wainwright.

To the Cardinals’ credit, they cleaned things up from there. The Nationals would not score for the rest of the game while the Cardinals clawed back for a run in the fourth before plating three runs in the fifth. Yadier Molina went yard off of Corbin in the fourth. In the fifth, a Tommy Edman ground out and a José Martínez two-run double accounted for the Cardinals’ runs in the fifth.

Corbin ultimately gave up the four runs on four hits and three walks with, impressively, 12 strikeouts across five innings of work. Tanner Rainey worked a 1-2-3 sixth. Sean Doolittle did the same in the seventh.

Doolittle remained in the game in the eighth, getting the first two outs before relenting a single to Marcell Ozuna. Right-hander Daniel Hudson entered for the four-out save opportunity. Hudson hit Molina with a fastball, bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of Paul DeJong. DeJong worked a full count, then walked to load the bases. Pinch-hitter Matt Carpenter emerged from the dugout to take his cuts against Hudson. After five tense pitches to Carpenter, Hudson got him to ground out to second base to end the inning.

The Nats went down quick in the bottom of the eighth. Hudson emerged from the dugout to send the Nationals into the World Series. He did just that, getting Kolten Wong to fly out to shallow left field for the first out. Matt Wieters popped up to the catcher in fair territory for out number two. At long last, Edman flied out to center field. Nationals win 7-4.

The only other time the franchise reached the Championship Series was in 1981 when the Expos lost three games to two to the Dodgers. The Expos/Nationals then went from 1982-2011 without a playoff appearance. The Nationals lost four Division Series appearances in a row in 2012, ’14, and ’16-17, three of which went the maximum five games. Now they’re in the World Series, improbably. They will await the winner of the ALCS, which the Astros currently lead 2-1.