Poll: Best Mid-Level, One-Year Signings

Players signed on one-year deals are obviously on a different timeline in terms of value assessment than are those who ink multi-year pacts. For one-year guys, their club must get their money’s worth — through on-field performance, trade value, or both — in 2014. Now that we’ve had a chance to see a full spring and about 12% of the regular season, let’s take a quick look back at some of this year’s relatively modest, one-year contracts.

I will limit the list to players who signed for more than $4MM and up to $8MM (presented alphabetically; poll will randomize order). The early returns have been pretty solid on the whole. And remember — almost all of these guys will be free agents again next year. The poll question is simple: rank these players according to which you think will ultimately prove to have been the best one-year signings (given their respective team’s needs).

John Axford, RP, Indians, $4.5MM: leading league with eight saves; 2.79 ERA but seven walks already  in 9 2/3.

Bruce Chen, SP, Royals, $4.25MM: has made three starts, allowing 11 earned runs in 15 innings; his strikeouts are up, but so are the hits allowed (.417 BABIP).

Nelson Cruz, OF/DH, Orioles, $8MM (plus 54th overall draft pick): off to a big .301/.386/.603 start with six home runs, though early defensive numbers are awful (-4 DRS, -52.1 UZR/150).

Mark Ellis, 2B, Cardinals, $5.25MM: has not received much playing time behind Kolten Wong, and is off to a slow start (.375 OPS).

Jason Hammel, SP, Cubs, $6MM: through four starts, has racked up 27 2/3 innings of 2.60 ERA ball, including impressive 1.6 BB/9 and just 4.6 H/9; benefiting greatly from unsustainably high strand rate (91.7%) and low BABIP (.130).

Corey Hart, DH/OF/1B, Mariners, $6MM: has shaken off the rust early, with a .270/.333/.508 line and four home runs in 69 plate appearances.

Roberto Hernandez, SP, Phillies, $4.5MM: has a 5.75 ERA through four starts (20 1/3 innings pitched), but SIERA (3.63) and xFIP (3.39) like his work thus far.

Josh Johnson, SP, Padres, $8MM (plus $4MM vesting option): will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery, but could still be kept in the fold for 2015 if San Diego exercises its option, which vested because he did not make at least seven starts.

Mike Morse, OF, Giants, $6MM: has returned from injury-riddled 2013 to post .279/.338/.559 triple-slash and five home runs in first 74 plate appearances; San Francisco has limited the downside of his defensive limitations with late-inning substitutions.

Ryan Vogelsong, SP, Giants, $5MM: a tough start has him at a 7.71 ERA through just 16 1/3 frames in four outings, and there isn’t much to sugarcoat based on his peripherals.

Edinson Volquez, SP, Pirates, $5MM: off to a solid start with a 1.93 ERA in 28 innings; his strikeouts are down (5.1 K/9), though he has limited walks (1.6 BB/9), but his BABIP (.233) and long ball rates (.32 HR/9) suggest some regression is coming.

Chris Young, OF, Mets, $7.25MM: dealt with hamstring issues early and has seen only 25 plate appearances, through which he has just a .440 OPS.

Click here for the results.


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Full Story | 37 Comments | Categories: MLBTR Polls

37 Responses to Poll: Best Mid-Level, One-Year Signings Leave a Reply

  1. jury_rigger 1 year ago

    meh, too much work

  2. Cobby_Box 1 year ago

    Was the 4 Million Dollar floor to keep everyone from voting for Aaron Harang?

    • Jeff_Todd_MLBTR 1 year ago

      Ha, no, it was essentially random but I wanted to limit the number of possibilities to some extent. I was undecided on going up to $8MM since that brought in both Cruz and JJ … no surprise, they are eliciting strong opinions early.

      I hope folks will vote not just based on current performance, but expected performance (factoring in the early returns). E.g., 8 saves look nice for Axford, but 7 walks are a pretty big concern.

      • Derpy 1 year ago

        Welp, I voted that way. I have high regard for Corey Hart, I feel he is very underrated. Chris Young has also hit the ball very hard, but right at people. You would think they will start falling for hits eventually. Especially after having mashed the ball in both spring training and his rehab.

        • discollama 1 year ago

          Yeah, I liked Hart too and thought he had a chance to provide a lot of excess value should he stay healthy and get a decent amount of playing time. I kind of wish that he would have stuck with the Brewers though.

    • toddcoffeytime 1 year ago

      Or K-Rod?

  3. Caleb 1 year ago

    I really don’t think you can make a judgement call like this 1/10th of the way into the season.

    • Jeff_Todd_MLBTR 1 year ago

      If we wait until the season is over, then what fun is having a poll? I’m asking for opinions, not judgments.

      It’s too soon to take anything from Cano’s early performance to judge his 10-year deal, but I think this is actually the right time to form some opinions on one-year guys. They’ve already produced (or not produced) 12% of their contracts, and while there is tons of regression required, we can see what they have brought to their teams, how they fit, how the look (esp with spring included), etc.

      • Caleb 1 year ago

        So sure, I can guess which contracts will be the most team-friendly based on past seasons. But I’m barely going to take this year’s results into that judgement, with the exception of someone like Josh Johnson. Way too much of the season left.
        That said when you compare this general player/contract level with the superstars making >$15 million a year these end up being much, much more cost effective for a team. I wonder if this is a current market inefficiency. (Of course that would just push up the contracts more.)

        • Jeff_Todd_MLBTR 1 year ago

          Sure, the statistical accumulation only says so much. But it means something, and perhaps more importantly, we can see how the players have looked and how they fit in with what their teams are trying to do.

          I think Morse is a good example: he has shown he can still hit. (Open question, of course, whether he keeps it up, but that goes a long way given injury issues.) And SF has pulled him late consistently, showing how they will use him.

          Anyway, it’s a fairly quiet time of the year from a transactional perspective, so we’re doing our best to generate content.

          • Caleb 1 year ago

            If you’re looking for content, and I know you’re not asking, may I suggest something like looking for how many players like Chris Colabello have made it back from the Independent Leagues to the majors? I’d love to read that. Or average WAR of former Indy league players in the majors.

          • Jeff_Todd_MLBTR 1 year ago

            Hey, I’m always open to suggestions, and that seems like a good one. His start is amazing in many ways, but especially so given that MIN tried to sell him off to Korea in the offseason.

  4. Benjamin Tully 1 year ago

    Uhhh, how about the Brewers signing K-Rod for 3.25M. Better everything than Axford making 4.5M.

    • Jeff_Todd_MLBTR 1 year ago

      “I will limit the list to players who signed for more than $4MM and up to $8MM”

      Needed to draw a line somewhere — was more interested in looking at players who signed in a certain price band than just asking about all the guys who have had nice starts.

  5. schaddy24 1 year ago

    Hammel is this years Scott Feldman. So far he has been a fantastic signing by Theo and Jed. Hopefully he sustains this level until the (last?!) July fire sale.

  6. Tim Valencia 1 year ago

    easily its Josh Johnson

  7. pastlives 1 year ago

    It’s gotta be Nelson Cruz no? Sure looks like it from over here in Toronto -_-

    • Rangergal 1 year ago

      What I was thinking .. from over here in Texas.

      • pastlives 1 year ago

        At least he hasn’t crushed you guys into the ground yet 😛

  8. discollama 1 year ago

    Wouldn’t one year deals actually have little risk? They usually come with lower cost, and if the player is ineffective or gets hurt, well, it’s only one year. It’s not like the Mariners were risking a 3/18 deal where Hart may be absolutely awful and hurt and the Mariners are still on the hook to pay for a player who wont be doing anything in the last year or two of his contract. Even if you pay more for a one year deal, generally an overpay is easier to swallow for teams and pundits alike for the same reasons I listed above.

    • Jeff_Todd_MLBTR 1 year ago

      Yes, generally, one-year deals certainly have less risk than multi-year deals. I don’t believe that I suggested otherwise. I just said that there is a more compressed period for such deals to pay off, and suggested it may make sense to look at the earlier than you would a long-term deal.

      • discollama 1 year ago

        Having re-read the first sentence, it does seem that I misread/read a bit into it and come away with a sense that because they must pay off immediately that they are higher risk than guys on multi-year contracts. Thanks for clearing that up for me.

  9. Eric 1 year ago

    You can’t sort by column in the survey, so it’s hard to read the results.

    • Jeff_Todd_MLBTR 1 year ago

      Yeah, sorry. Limitation of the site we use for non-straightforward surveys. (In this case, ranking.)

  10. Josh Johnson show’s that there are such things as bad one year deals.

  11. brothermonster 1 year ago

    Too early for this poll…. Also, Gavin Floyd should be on this list

    • Jeff_Todd_MLBTR 1 year ago

      See above on timing. And on Floyd. I drew the line at >$4MM & <= $8MM. Floyd got exactly 4, and I was particularly interested in keeping him out since obviously we don't know much more now than we did when he signed.

  12. TimotheusATL 1 year ago

    interesting how many of the 1-4mil signings have outperformed the majority of this list.

  13. OmazingOs 1 year ago

    Trying to keep an unbiased opinion, I have to vote Nelson Cruz. He not only has had solid production, he’s mostly a DH, so his defensive stats have to be put in perspective. Plus, he might bring the O’s a 30-something round draft pick in FA next year.

  14. Joe Valenti 1 year ago

    I went for Hart mostly because I feel his numbers are more sustainable. Cruz is historically a streaky hitter so he could disappear for the next month while sprinkling a few home runs in and both Volquez and Hammels are likely to come back down to earth

  15. Derpy 1 year ago

    Crunched numbers from results, came up with this:

    1. Cruz
    2. Volquez
    3. Morse
    4. Axford
    5. Hammel
    6. Hart
    7. Chen
    8. Ellis
    9. Hernandez
    10. Young
    11. Vodelsong
    12. Johnson

    I seriously do not understand why Chris Young is ranked so low here. He bat like .400 in spring and rehab, and has been crushing the ball lately. He hit a massive, towering home run today, against the wind, that went into the upper deck of Citi Field. Only 3,4 other guys have ever hit a ball that far in that stadium. That is how Chris Young has been batting lately, and yet he is ranked at 10? I don’t get it, it is the biggest question mark I see in those results.

  16. daveineg 1 year ago

    Better than any on that list is a guy that signed for $3.25 million, Francisco Rodriguez.

  17. daveineg 1 year ago

    Hart has incentives which almost certainly will put him over the $8 million threshold of this analysis if he stays healthy and plays at his current pace.

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