With the 2016 MLB season finished for the majority of teams, we’ll take a look back at notable offseason free agent signings, grading each one based on statistical production.
David Price, SP, Red Sox
Signed: 7 years, $217,000,000
Price had a nice year, posting a 3.99 ERA with 228 strikeouts across a 17-9 record in Boston. He accounted for 5.63 production points per start, 18th most among veteran starting pitchers, not nearly enough to reach any type of “value” status for his $31M average salary. However he more than filled the Red Sox’s need for a bonafide ace, leading them into the postseason. The 31-year-old can opt-out after 2018 and will earn $90M over the first three years of this deal.
Zack Greinke, SP, Diamondbacks
Signed: 6 years, $206,500,000
Early injuries hampered the D-Backs 2016 campaign, and Greinke’s somewhat mediocre season certainly didn’t help either. The 32-year-old finished a 4.37 ERA, 134 K’s and a record of 13-7, well below what is to be expected from his new $34.4M average salary. Greinke did account for 5.8 production points per start, good for 13th among veteran starting pitchers, but mathematically he still wound up the 3rd worst value veteran pitcher in baseball.
Jason Heyward, OF, Cubs
Signed: 8 years, $184,000,000
The Cubs knew they were signing Heyward for more than his bat, as he consistently ranks near the top of all outfielders defensively. While his fielding held up in 2016, his production at the plate was abysmal at best. Heyward finished the regular season with a .230 average, 7 homeruns, and just 49 RBIs in 142 games. With an average salary of $23M per year, only Mark Teixeira and Ryan Howard wound up worst values among 2016 batters. Heyward can opt-out after the 2018 season.
Chris Davis, 1B, Orioles
Signed: 7 years, $161,000,000
The Orioles knew what they were paying for when they brought Davis back into the fold this winter: Power, Strikeouts, and not much more. In that regard, he held up well, posting 21 doubles, 38 home runs, and 84 RBIs in 157 games. At $23M per year, Davis and his one-sided stat lines will never be a “value”. But 3.45 production points per game rank 25th among veteran batters, and Baltimore got what they asked from him in 2016.
Justin Upton, OF, Tigers
Signed: 6 years, $132,750,000
After a dreadful start, Upton finished the 2016 season strong, winding up with 28 doubles, 31 home runs, and 87 RBIs. While his ability to hit for average has dropped off over the past two seasons, if he can keep his OPS near the .800 mark, he’ll be effective for Detroit going forward. His 3.27 production points per game ranks him 30th among veteran batters, but his $22.15M average salary brings is overall value down to 86th. Upton can opt-out after the 2017 season.
Johnny Cueto, SP, Giants
Signed: 6 years, $130,000,000
After missing out on Price & Greinke, the Giants thought Cueto to be the next best option. He rewarded them with a better year than all of the above, finishing 2016 with 32 starts, a 2.79 ERA, 220 IP, 200 strikeouts, and an 18-5 record. His $21.6M average salary ranks 13th among starting pitchers, and his 7.5 production points per start make him the 9th best value veteran pitcher. The 30-year-old can opt-out after the 2017 season.
Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Mets
Signed: 3 years, $75,000,000
Many were surprised when Cespedes chose to return to the Mets this winter, but the more we see of him there, the more it appears he feels right at home. He battled a quad injury for the most of the season, but still posted 25 doubles, 31 home runs, 86 RBIS, and a .280 average in 132 games. His 3.6 production points per game rank 16th among veteran batters, helping him maintain a respectable 83rd best overall value when considering his $25M per year salary. Cespedes is expected to opt-out this winter.