When I look back and have time to reflect on the 2016 MLB offseason, I will remember this year’s version of winter drama and excitement in particular for many unique reasons.
I learned that the definition of a mid-tier starting pitcher has changed completely. Now more than ever, teams value and are willing to spend large amounts of their payroll on not just aces but on what most would consider back-end of the rotation fillers.
The definition of what a fourth and fifth starter is has changed so drastically recently and that reached its peak this offseason. With the amount of money that is currently in today’s MLB, its no surprise that Jordan Zimmermann ($100 million), David Price ($217 million), and Zack Greinke ($206.5 million) all got paid.
However, Ian Kennedy getting $70 million, Wei-Yin Chen and Mike Leake each getting $80 million, and Jeff Samardzija courting $90 million? Those were surprises and it shows just how many teams are desperate to add starting pitching because of the value to a club that comes with accomplishing that.
I will also remember this winter’s events for the designated hitter debate in the National League and the numerous free agents who should have signed already but haven’t, including second baseman Howie Kendrick and outfielder Dexter Fowler.
In lieu of recent big signings and rumors that are still swirling around baseball, I thought I would look at free agent signings in a completely different way. Most people would rank the free agents in terms of most impact on the team, best contract, or best value for a franchise.
I am going to rank my top seven free agent signings based on the potential impact that the signing will have on the playoff race both for teams that signed him, and for teams that fell short.
In today’s MLB parity is everything, and virtually any team can win in a given season. Twenty-five of the 30 teams in the majors have made the postseason at least once since the 2010 campaign. Twenty-five! That is staggering folks. Only the Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, Chicago White Sox, and Colorado Rockies have missed out.
Failing to be aggressive on the free agent market can be quite costly for teams trying to keep up in their division.
Keeping that in mind as the basis for this article, here are, in no particular order, seven free agent signings that will impact playoff races. Of course there are probably more than seven examples but these are the seven I plucked out my head.