With roughly a week and a half left in the 2018 Major League Baseball regular season, it’s evident which offseason additions are paying dividends and which ones have general managers yearning in regret. Here are the five best and worst free agent signings from last winter.
The 5 Best Signings of the Offseason:
Honorable Mentions: Clay Buchholz, Edwin Jackson, Mitch Moreland
5) Lorenzo Cain — five-year, $80 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers
Cain has been one of the best outfielders in baseball for the better part of this decade, and this season he has continued to be such a player for the Brewers. Hitting .308 with a .398 on-base percentage and drawing a career-high 68 walks, the center fielder has been a steady force at the top of the Brewers lineup. In the field, Cain has committed just six errors. Cain’s $80 million deal has, so far, been a bargain for the Brewers. Without the outfielder, the Brewers might not be in the driver’s seat to host the National League Wild Card game.
4) Jhoulys Chacin — two-year, $15.5 million deal with the Brewers
After bouncing around the league for the last two years, it appears that the right-handed Chacin has found a home with the Brewers. In 32 starts, Chacin has recorded a 3.54 ERA and a career-best 1.20 WHIP and is on pace for a career high in strikeouts. Chacin has been the Brewers’ most reliable starter, has surrendered over four earned runs in an outing just twice this season, and he may take the hill if and when they reach the NL Wild Card game. At an annual salary of under $8 million, Chacin was a phenomenal signing by Brewers management.
3) Trevor Cahill — one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Oakland Athletics
The Athletics have been the biggest surprise in the sport this season, as they appear poised to compete in the AL Wild Card Game. Cahill has helped contribute to their success. After inking a one-year deal to return to the team he began his career with, the righty has recorded a 3.77 ERA in 19 starts and has been pitching deep into games. With Sean Manaea out for the year with a shoulder injury, Cahill could potentially start for the A’s in the AL Wild Card Game based on his success this season and veteran pedigree.
2) Shoehi Ohtani — one-year, $545K deal with the Los Angeles Angels
Yes, Ohtani is nursing an elbow injury which may limit his ability to be a starting pitcher down the road, but his production in the major leagues this season is astonishing. He was hitting near 100 mph on the radar when on the hill — where he recorded a 3.31 ERA and totaled 63 strikeouts — and has been a vital source of offense for the Angels. Hitting .290 with a .370 on-base percentage, 20 home runs, and 55 RBIs in 92 games, the 24-year-old Ohtani has been one of the biggest storylines in baseball this season. A one-two punch of Mike Trout and Ohtani could become the best offensive duo in the game in the coming years.
1) J.D. Martinez — five-year, $110 million deal with the Boston Red Sox
It’s not often that a player makes a nine-figure contract a bargain for the team that signed him. But Martinez has done just that for the Red Sox. Serving as manager Alex Cora‘s designated hitter and fourth outfielder, Martinez is hitting .328 with 41 home runs and an MLB-best 123 RBIs. He has been arguably the most dangerous hitter in the sport and could potentially win the triple crown with a strong finish to the year. If you remove Martinez from the Red Sox order, their 10.5-game lead in the American League East would be much smaller.
The 5 Worst Signings of the Offseason:
Honorable Mentions: Bryan Shaw, Andrew Cashner, Jaime Garcia
5) Tyler Chatwood — three-year, $38 million deal with the Chicago Cubs
The Cubs let former Cy Young Award winning righty Jake Arrieta walk in free agency, but they dished out a lot of coin to fill out their rotation. One way they did so was by signing Colorado Rockies righty Chatwood to a three-year, $38 million deal. In 24 appearances, 2o of which have been starts, Chatwood has recorded a 5.30 ERA and a career-worst 1.80 WHIP. He hasn’t pitched deep into games, is getting hit hard, and is putting runners on base far too frequently. If Chatwood doesn’t turn the corner soon, he could be left off the Cubs postseason roster.
4) Jay Bruce — three-year $39 million deal with the New York Mets
The Mets signed several players to multi-year deals this offseason, and bringing back veteran outfielder Bruce was a part of that spending spree, though it’s a contract they’ve likely grown to regret. After inking a three-year, $39 million deal, Bruce is hitting .219, has driven in just 31 runs, and has missed nearly half the 2018 season due to injury. While they’ve played him at first base from time to time, Bruce’s ability to lock down right field continues to be underwhelming — which overrides his versatility. Plus, with the Mets likely looking to give Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo permanent starting gigs going forward and Yoenis Cespedes striving to be ready for the 2019 season, Bruce is a bizarre fit on this roster past 2018.
3) Alex Cobb — four-year, $57 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles tried to improve their starting rotation in free agency, and in late March they agreed to a four-year, $57 million deal with Cobb — who had been a reliable righty for the Tampa Bay Rays beforehand. But after missing spring training and not making his first start until April 14, the righty struggled, and his woes on the hill have progressed throughout the majority of the regular season. While he has pitched better over the last five weeks, Cobb, for the most part, has been one of the more inconsistent starters in the game. Currently owning a 4.90 ERA and 1.41 WHIP while already surrendering a career-high 24 home runs, the Orioles would likely think twice before giving the 30-year-old a contract of that magnitude again.
2) Wade Davis — three-year, $52 million deal with the Colorado Rockies
The Rockies decided to empty their pockets for bullpen aid this offseason. Their most significant free agent signing was Davis, but the closer has been unable to stabilize the Rockies pen. Throughout the first four months of the season, Davis was one of the worst closers in the game. He was getting hit hard, struggling with his command, and was difficult to rely on to get a big out in the late innings. While he’s been more reliable over the last month, Davis’s 4.48 ERA highlights what has, overall, been a disastrous first season in a contract granting him an annual salary of roughly $17 million. And the Rockies bullpen, as a whole, has been their team’s Achilles heel, as they strive to make their first NLDS appearance since 2009.
1) Yu Darvish — six-year, $126 million deal with the Cubs
In an effort to keep a potent starting rotation in place, the Cubs went out and signed Darvish. While the righty has been a dominant force on the rubber from time to time in the past, his debut year in the Windy City has been one to forget for both Darvish and the Cubs. After starting just eight games in which he never went beyond six innings and recorded a career-worst 4.95 ERA and 1.43 WHIP, Darvish was placed on the disabled list with elbow soreness — which led to him missing the rest of the 2018 season. Darvish’s struggles in the eight games he started this season and the recurring elbow woes he has encountered over his career are legitimate reasons for the Cubs to be concerned about what the righty can provide them with for the remaining five years of his deal. It’s a signing that president Theo Epstein would take back if he could.