A number of players have made big contributions so far this season despite only signing a one-year deal or a minor-league deal this past offseason. Here’s a list of every player who fits that description and who’s produced more than 1 fWAR heading into today’s action. That cutoff excludes a few players clearly having productive seasons (such as Ervin Santana, Joba Chamberlain, Francisco Rodriguez and Emilio Bonifacio), and it excludes the possibility that the newly-signed Stephen Drew will make a big impact in Boston. But it’s as good a cutoff point as any, restricting us to players currently on pace to post seasons of around 3 WAR. Here they are, in alphabetical order.
In April, MLBTR’s Jeff Todd asked you to rank one-year deals in the $4MM-$8MM range. We now have more data on players signed to those deals, plus more information about no-risk minor-league signees we might have overlooked in April, so now is a good time to revisit last year’s free-agent class to see which low-risk deals are netting the most value.
Nelson Cruz, Orioles, $8MM plus roster bonuses. The Orioles also gave up the No. 55 overall pick in next week’s draft. Cruz has hit .315/.383/.675 in 230 plate appearances so far this season. He left today’s game with a hand injury, but he’s hit brilliantly for Baltimore so far, piling up an incredible 20 home runs.
Juan Francisco, Blue Jays, minor-league contract. The Jays signed Francisco after the Brewers dropped him in late March, and he’s hit a remarkable .275/.365/.596, with nine home runs in his first 126 plate appearances.
Jason Hammel, Cubs, $6MM. Hammel has pitched 71 1/3 terrific innings so far thanks to excellent control — he’s only allowing 1.9 BB/9. Hammel’s 2.78 ERA likely isn’t sustainable, but it doesn’t need to be for him to provide the Cubs with great value for $6MM.
Aaron Harang, Braves, minor-league deal, $1MM. Harang’s resurgence with Atlanta has been nothing short of amazing — last year it looked like his days as a productive big-leaguer might be over, but this year he has a 3.29 ERA with peripherals to match (9.7 K/9, 2.6 BB/9). The Braves also got two more solid pitchers in Santana and Gavin Floyd on one-year deals last offseason.
Michael Morse, Giants, $6MM. Morse’s poor defense limits his value, but it’s almost impossible not to be an asset when one hits .295/.351/.574. Morse is a big reason the Giants currently have the best record in baseball. His slugging percentage so far is 92 points above his career total.
A.J. Pierzynski, Red Sox, $8.25MM. Pierzynski has produced 1.1 WAR this season while hitting .288/.318/.417 in 174 plate appearances, accumulating much of that value in a recent 10-game hitting streak. He has not, however, won good reviews for his handling of the Red Sox’ pitching staff.
Yangervis Solarte, Yankees, minor-league contract. Solarte has been a highlight of an unsettled Yankees infield, playing decent defense at both third and second while hitting .299/.369/.466. That’s not bad for a 26-year-old who had never played in the big leagues before this season. The Yankees also can control his rights for several more years beyond this one if they choose.
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