Reviewing some of MLB's best year-end deals
Over the last few years, the second half of December has been very active on the free agency front, with at least one huge name changing addresses and helping his new GM check off a huge item from their Holiday shopping list.
Cody Ross and Nick Swisher have found new homes in the last few days, but there are still a handful of big names on the free agent market – including Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse – and more who could be traded this offseason. If anyone does change addresses, at least in principle, over the next few days, they’ll join notable names like the ones below who came off the market during recent moratoriums.
2007: Texas drops the hammer
“Hammer” as in Josh Hamilton, who was traded from Cincinnati to the Rangers on Dec. 21, 2007 in exchange for pitcher Edinson Volquez. It was a great deal for the Rangers, as Hamilton hit .305 with 142 homers over the next five seasons, played in five All-Star Games, and was the 2010 AL MVP, but it also worked out well for the Reds, too. Volquez went 17-6 with a 3.21 ERA in 2008, and then after three tough years, he became part of the package Cincy sent to San Diego last winter for Mat Latos – who went 14-4 with a 3.48 ERA in 33 starts for the Reds in 2012.
2008: The Yankees splurge
The 2008 Holidays were likely very happy ones for Brian Cashman, and extremely happy ones for Bombers fans thanks to the GM’s wizardry. It started on Dec. 12, when the Yankees agreed to a deal with A.J. Burnett, continued on Dec. 20 when Cashman nabbed CC Sabathia, and carried over into early 2009 when the Yankees officially introduced Mark Teixeira, who agreed to a deal in the final week of 2008. It all paid off about 10 months later, when the Yankees once again paraded a World Series trophy up the Canyon of Heroes.
2009: The Mets go from “Boom to Bust” (and back)
On Dec. 29, 2009, the Mets made their sexiest signing of the winter, inking Jason Bay, who was coming off a .267-36-119 season in Boston, to a huge four-year deal. But it was eight days earlier that they made their best signing, adding R.A. Dickey – a 35-year-old journeyman knuckleballer with 22 career MLB wins – on a much smaller deal. Bay was of course a flop and was outright released after 2012, while Dickey won the Cy Young Award and was flipped to the Blue Jays earlier this month for a pair of top prospects. To channel John Sterling, this scenario is a perfect example of how you can’t predict baseball.
2010: Greinke and Lee switch leagues
Earlier this month, Greinke got a gigantic contract from the Los Angeles Dodgers, returning him to the National League once again. His first taste of the NL came on Dec. 19, 2010, when the Kansas City Royals traded him and Yuniesky Betancourt to Milwaukee for four players, including Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar. That move may have been reactionary to what happened four days earlier, when the big free agent pitching prize, Cliff Lee, agreed to a five-year, $120 million deal with Philadelphia. Greinke was 25-9 with a 3.67 ERA in a season-plus for the Brew Crew before being traded to the Angels and will look to resume that NL success as he moves up I-5 from the OC to Hollywood, while Lee is 23-17 with a 2.76 ERA so far in his second stint in the City of Brotherly Love.
2011: Beltran bolts for St. Louis
Back in 2006, Carlos Beltran, then a Met, made Cardinals fans giddy when he struck out looking to end the NLCS and send St. Louis to their second World Series in three years. On Dec. 23, 2011, he did it again, agreeing to a two-year, $26 million deal with the Cards…and in the first year of that deal, he posted a /269-32-97 line and helped St. Louis reach the NLCS for the seventh time since 2000.
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