When the World Series is over, the MLB season doesn't quite end as there's plenty of work to be done in getting a team ready for the next season. One of the most effective ways to get a fan excited for their team is to sign one of the top free agents on the market.
For a team that's been struggling, the move could provide a step in the right direction, as signing a star can also attract other free agents to join their fray. For teams that are more established, signing a free agent can be the missing piece to the puzzle. For teams, who are already contenders, signing a free agent can put them over the top.
The Yankees have been one of the teams known to sign big money free agents to win a World Series. However, the Yankees stayed silent this offseason. They currently hold a $200 million player payroll and things haven't been going their way as late. So, it's important for teams to spend their money wisely. Especially the lower budget teams.
The free agent class for the year 2015/2016 was a pretty good one, as there were some top position players and pitchers to fit different needs. There were plenty of large contracts signed over the winter, all with the hopes of helping their teams to the playoffs.
Baseball has a long and unpredictable season though. Sometimes the free agents signed don't perform to their expectations on the dollar, while other times they may.
So, we decided to grade the top 15 MLB free agent signing on their performances early on. Granted, their is a long season ahead and these numbers are bound to change for better or worse. It's still interesting to look at the performance so far.
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15 Wei-Yin Chen
The Marlins signed Wei-Yin Chen to a five year deal worth $80 million. Chen has been a quality starting pitcher who will never be confused for an ace, but that's okay. The Marlins have Jose Fernandez for that role and Chen can help the Marlins by being a quality number two guy.
Chen has gone 2-1 with an 4.66 ERA through six starts. So, he hasn't been elite, but has at least maintained a winning record.
14 Mike Leake
It's a little bit early, but there's a good chance that the Cardinals overpaid when they signed Mike Leake to a 5 year deal worth $80 million. Leake has been pretty inconsistent over the course of the career, but is still a quality inning-eating pitcher. So far though, Leake is sporting a 6.03 era to go with a 0-3 record through six starts.
There is more then enough time for Leake to turn it around and live up to the $80 million contract that he signed.
13 Dexter Fowler
Dexter Fowler opted to resign with the Chicago Cubs after reportedly agreeing to a three year deal with the Orioles that never came to be. He only signed a one year deal deal with a mutual option for 2017 for $13 million dollars.
So, far Dexter Fowler is giving the Cubs their money's worth. He has an impressive batting average of .343, three home runs, 17 RBIs and five stolen bases. We're just barely over a month into the season, but if Fowler can keep this up, he could potentially set himself for a much larger, long term contract this upcoming offseason.
12 Ben Zobrist
Ben Zobrist was one of the more sought after second basemen in free agency. He would eventually opt to sign with the Chicago Cubs on a 4 year deal worth a whopping $56 million. The versatile second basemen is not likely to ever hit a .300 batting average. However, he does know how to get on base. He's worked 21 walks while just striking out 13 times.
So far, he has a .278 batting average with five home runs, which is a solid start. We can expect more of the same from Zobrist as the season continues on.
11 Jeff Samardzija
Jeff Samardzija has been a pretty inconsistent innings-eater pitcher throughout his career. After spending his career in Chicago, with both the White Sox and Cubs, Samardzija signed an 5 year deal worth $90 million with the San Francisco Giants.
So far so good with the right hander. He is sporting a 3.32 ERA with an 4-1 record. The Giants could be receiving a bargain on Samardzija, as he has the talent to be a premier starter if he can remain consistent.
10 Daniel Murphy
After Daniel Murphy had a great postseason with the Mets, he absolutely cashed in. He signed a 3 year deal with the Nationals worth $37.5 million.
So, far Murphy is playing beyond his expectations. He's leading the National League in batting average with a .402 batting average to go along with four home runs. It's more than likely that this pace will not last, but Daniel Murphy has the contact hitting ability to hit .300 on the season.
9 Alex Gordon
Most of us expected Alex Gordon to stay with Kansas City, as it would be hard for him to leave an established team that just won the World Series.
He ended up signing a 4 year deal with the Royals for $72 million. So far, Alex Gordon is off to a pretty slow start. He's hit just two home runs to go with a .219 batting average. He's been good for KC with his glove though and has the talent to turn it around.
8 Justin Upton
Justin Upton was a player that many believed would sign a one year deal, as the market seemed to be moving slow for him. However, he found his home with the Tigers and would sign a contract for 6 years and $132 million, though there is an opt-out available in two years.
So far, Justin Upton is off to his typical slow start to the season. He has a .239 batting average to go with two home runs and a league leading 45 strikeouts. He smacked 26 home runs last year to go alng with a .251 batting average on the season. With Upton being 28 years old now, we expect him to at least duplicate those 2015 numbers, if not improve on them.
7 Jason Heyward
Jason Heyward has been one of the most highly regarded youngsters in the league since he arrived and it finally paid off for him last year, as he inked an 8 year, $184 million contract with the Chicago Cubs, who are probably the favorite to win the World Series this year.
However, he hasn't arrived with the Cubs just yet. He has a .202 batting average and has yet to hit a home run. However, Jason Heyward has been dealing with an wrist injury as of late and is reportedly ready to put it behind him. So, maybe the improved health will wake up the 26 year old.
6 Chris Davis
Chris Davis stalled for a while during the off season. There were rumors that Davis would be going around that Davis might've signed with the Rangers or Detroit. However, he opted to stay with the Orioles' on a 7 year, $161 million contract.
Baltimore has been a great fit for Davis in the past and it has remained that way. So, far he's hit eight home runs in 2016 with a typically low .206 batting average. He probably won't hit a .300 batting average anytime soon, but we can expect him to hit at least 30 home runs this season.
5 Yoenis Cespedes
Yoenis Cespdes is probably the most talented journeyman in baseball. This guy is elite, yet somehow has already played on four different teams in his four years in the league. After spending half of last season with Detroit, he was traded to the Mets where he may be able to fit for the next couple of years.
He signed a three year deal towards the end of the summer with the Mets for a potential $76 million, though he can opt-out after this season if he think he'll definitely command a big time contract on the open market.
He seems like such a fit with the Mets though. So far this season, he is hitting .290 to go with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs. Cespedes will likely remain the Mets biggest asset in their line up for the remainder of the year.
4 Jordan Zimmermann
Justin Upton wasn't the only player that the Tigers signed last summer, as they also inked Jordan Zimmermann to a 5 year contract worth $110 million. The moment the Tigers brought in Zimmermann many felt like they got themselves a terrific bargain.
So farm Zimmermann has proven them right, and then some. He's been nearly perfect for the Tigers, going 5-1 with just a 1.10 ERA. If he can keep at least 70% of this pace going, Zimmermann will be in contention to win a Cy Young award.
3 Johnny Cueto
Johnny Cueto established himself as one of the elite starting pitchers in the league during his time with the Cincinnati Reds. Last year, he was dealt to the World Series winning Kansas City Royals in his contract year. He was decent in the playoffs, going 2-1 with a 5.40 ERA.
It was good enough to earn him a $130 million contract that will be paid over the next six years, though there's an opt-out available in two years. So far, so good for Cueto in 2016. He's gone 401 with an 3.02 ERA and the Giants may have the best pitching rotation in baseball.
2 Zack Greinke
Zack Greinke was the second most prized free agent of 2016 and for good reason. Last year, he won 19 games and sported an incredible 1.66 ERA. It's safe to say he deserved the 6 year, $206.5 million contract he received from Arizona.
It's been an average start for Zack Greinke so far. He's 3-2 with 5.15 ERA. We'll see if Zack Greinke can continue his success this season and for years to come.
1 David Price
Quite simply, David Price was the most prized free agent of the offseason. He won a CY Young in 2012 and is a candidate each season to win it again. The Red Sox inked the 6'5' lefty to a 7 year and $217 million contract.
He has potential to reach 20 wins this season. So, far he's sporting a 4-1 record to go with an 675 ERA. So, he's certainly benefited from run support, but it's almost a certainty that he'll return the favor throughout the season.
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