There are a variety of factors that can lead players — even those good enough to command many millions of guaranteed dollars — to sign one-year deals as free agents, ranging from age to the need to prove health or ability before returning to the market in search of a longer contract. From a team’s perspective, it can be beneficial to promise a higher single-season payout rather than limiting roster flexibility and buying up post-prime seasons with a multi-year pact.
With most of the season in the books, it seemed like an opportune time to look back at those one-year pacts that have seemingly worked out. The good news for these players, of course, is that they enjoyed solid platform deals to work off of in their next foray onto the open market.
Excluding the many minor league pacts, I’ve come up with a list of nominees out of the dozens of one-year deals agreed upon last winter. So, which of these deals (listed from cheapest to most expensive) represents the best value for the team that reached it?
- Nori Aoki, Giants ($4.7MM + option): Before dealing with an unfortunate concussion issue, Aoki seemed well on his way to representing one of the steals of last year’s free agent market, and there’s an argument to be made that he still is just that — especially when you factor in the reasonable option for next year.
- Asdrubal Cabrera, Rays ($7.5MM): Checking in with a slightly-above-average .264/.317/.420 batting line and solid defensive and baserunning numbers, Cabrera has been worth over two wins above replacement in less than 500 plate appearances. That’s hard to find for a reasonable price on the open market.
- Colby Rasmus, Astros ($8MM): Rasmus has been a solid, two-win player for Houston in just over 400 plate appearances, representing nice value for the investment. He’s been much the same player he was last year, but the ’Stros did well to get his youth, power, and upside for such a meager commitment.
- A.J. Burnett, Pirates ($8.5MM): After an ill-fated swing south to Philadelphia, Burnett returned triumphantly to Pittsburgh this year. Though he lost some time with a DL stint, the veteran righty has still racked up 140 1/3 frames of 3.14 ERA ball.
- Brett Anderson, Dodgers ($10MM): Los Angeles rolled the dice on the talented lefty, and it has paid off handsomely. Though his peripherals are less compelling — Anderson only rates out at 1.6 fWAR — he’s contributed 158 innings of 3.36 ERA pitching.