As baseball fans around the world mark the end of 2013, let's take one more look back before plowing ahead to 2014. As always, all manner of different MLB transactions went down this past year, and each and every one was documented by MLB Trade Rumors. Signings, extensions, trades, and more — every move took place in a different context and was subjected to public scrutiny.
So, now that we have the benefit of looking back at the year as a whole, which single move was the best, considering the particular situation and what we now know? Was it a wise extension, a nifty trade, or a big free agent signing? I browsed through the MLBTR Transaction Tracker and came up with a (highly subjective) list of my favorite moves over the past year. Though the some moves have already begun to bear fruit, while others await a new season, each still has years to go until it can be evaluated in its entirety. Nevertheless, I think it will be interesting to see how MLBTR readers view things.
Here are the nine candidates I chose, along with a brief synopsis of the reasons why they merit consideration. (Needless to say, feel free to disagree with my choices in the comments.)
- White Sox extend LHP Chris Sale for five years, $32.5MM — Chicago locked up a young ace-caliber pitcher for the same type of contract that has been used to secure other good young arms. But Sale may be the best of the bunch, and he signed his deal just before new money and spending patterns may have broken the mold of young starter extensions.
- Brewers extend CF Carlos Gomez for three years, $24MM — Talk about buying low. Milwaukee locked up Gomez for his first three free agent-eligible seasons, right before the center fielder broke out with a stellar 8.4 rWAR campaign. While I won't proffer a guess as to what he'd ultimately have commanded in free agency this offseason, I think it is safe to say it would be multiples of his actual deal.
- Diamondbacks extend 1B Paul Goldschmidt five years, $32MM — This one does not require much explanation. Goldschmidt signed his extension with Arizona after a very promising run in his first season of full-time action. Then, he nearly won an MVP award.
- Red Sox extend 2B Dustin Pedroia for eight years, $110MM — The heart of the Sox has been worth at least three wins above replacement in every season he has seen regular action (and even reached that mark in the 75 games he played in 2010). His $13.75MM average annual value looks quite affordable compared to the $24MM guaranteed on average annually to Robinson Cano for the next decade.
- Nationals acquire RHP Doug Fister for LHP Robbie Ray, IF Steve Lombardozzi, and LHP Ian Krol — Fister has been one of the best ten pitchers in the game over the last three years, by fWAR, and has two seasons of reasonably-priced arbitration eligibility still to come. Yet the Nats were able to bring him in for a good-but-not-great prospect and two players with seemingly limited ceilings.
- Tigers acquire SS Jose Iglesias for OF Avisail Garcia — Even if you think that this was an even-value deal, it must be counted as a win for Detroit. Why? Just look at the haul that Matt Garza brought to serve as a short-term rental. GM Dave Dombrowski not only filled a sudden and unexpected hole during a key part of the season, but managed to adapt to Jhonny Peralta's suspension in a way that arguably enhanced the club's long-term health as well.
- Braves acquire LF Justin Upton and 3B Chris Johnson for UT Martin Prado, RHP Randall Delgado, SS Nick Ahmed, RHP Zeke Spruill, and 1B Brandon Drury — The signature trade of the 2013 offseason was a coup for Atlanta, in ways expected and not. Upton provided a strong season, even if he did not keep up his torrid start over the course of the year. But the real stunner was the huge campaign from Johnson; he was more productive than Prado, the main piece that the Braves gave up.
- Red Sox sign 1B Mike Napoli for one year, $5MM — While the limited guarantee came only after Napoli's original three-year deal fell apart over health concerns, GM Ben Cherington still deserves kudos for holding together the relationship. Even as he limited the club's exposure with a minimal $5MM promise, Cherington got his man into Fenway and held onto the upside. Needless to say, it worked out well for Boston, which was happy to pay Napoli his $8MM in earned incentives (and to lock him up to another seemingly solid deal for the club).
- Yankees sign C Brian McCann for five years, $85MM — No, we don't know how this deal will turn out. And yes, there have been other big-money signings to consider. But, to me at least, this contract stands out amongst recent major free agent signings for its value potential. Not only does McCann take over a spot that had been filled essentially at replacement level, but the limited length of the deal lowers the risk compared to other top-flight players that have signed. And it comes with upside, as the slugging lefty could reach new heights at Yankee Stadium and can take plenty of at-bats at DH to preserve his legs.
So, which move do you think was the best of 2013? (Response order will be randomized.)