It's clear now that the Rangers made a great free agent signing with Colby Lewis. The 31-year-old righty ranks 15th in the American League with a 3.28 ERA and sixth with 150 strikeouts. He was signed for just $5MM over two years, with a chance for $8MM over three years if the Rangers exercise their 2012 club option.
In February, Lewis told ESPN's Tim Kurkjian of his multiyear deal, "Things like that don't happen very often." Kurkjian explained the rarity of a player going to Japan, returning to MLB, and thriving. Even so, I'm still surprised Lewis didn't get a bigger contract. A $5MM commitment – teams will spend that much on a couple of draft picks despite a lower probability of success. Low-upside free agents like Miguel Tejada, Ivan Rodriguez, Jason Kendall, and Jason Marquis received more money last winter. Heck, the Rangers guaranteed $7.5MM to Rich Harden for one year. The Athletics gave Ben Sheets $10MM.
Interest was heavy – Kurkjian said 12 or 13 clubs were in on Lewis and the Twins and A's also offered two-year deals. MLB teams had two years to scout the new-and-improved Lewis in Japan. Rangers GM Jon Daniels told Kurkjian, "[Lewis] was throwing 90-to-95 with a hard cutter. Other teams saw the same thing." Lewis' numbers in Japan were ridiculously good, too. Why didn't anyone outbid the Rangers? Perhaps teams took the approach of, "better the devil you know than the devil you don't" and allocated free agent money toward players they were able to scout in MLB games.