We already looked at some minor-league contracts that have been winners for teams in the early stages of the 2018 season. (Starters; Relievers; Position Players.) Now, we’ll check in on some of the best low-cost, one-year MLB contracts that were handed out over the winter. We’ll start with the position players.
As with the minors deals, single-season MLB contracts leave teams free from worry about long-term entanglements. But the payout is measured in terms of months (at least, except in cases of players who are still eligible for arbitration). Now that we’re over a month into the season, a substantial portion of these contracts is already in the books.
Here are the one-year contracts signed by position players that have delivered the best value thus far, ordered from cheapest to most expensive:
- Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Mets ($545K): Despite only a .254 BABIP, Gonzalez is producing at a useful .247/.324/.438 clip with five home runs over 102 plate appearances. That’s not eye-popping output by any means, but the Mets can’t have reasonably hoped for much more given the league-minimum commitment that they made. Statcast, too, suggests there’s likely more in the tank, as A-Gon is credited with a .397 xwOBA and only carries a .318 wOBA.
- Leonys Martin, OF, Tigers ($1.75MM): He’s now out with injury, but Martin has been one of the more interesting budget signings of the winter. The talented defender and baserunner doesn’t need to do much at the plate to justify a roster spot, so his .294/.355/.508 output has more than justified the expenditure. He’s also showing a promising x/wOBA deficit (.057) that suggests he’s more than earning the slash with good contact. If he can get back to health and show that he’s still in good form with the bat, Martin could draw the attention of some contenders at the trade deadline.
- Nick Hundley, C, Giants ($2.5MM): It’s not that surprising to see a Giants catcher with a 156 wRC+ at this stage of the season, but nobody expected it to be Hundley rather than the man he backs up, superstar Buster Posey. There’s no real reason to believe that Hundley will sustain anything like his current output, which has come over just 57 plate appearances. But he is absolutely stinging the ball at present. Indeed, Statcast feels he has been rather unfortunate, valuing his batted-ball output at a .443 xwOBA that far exceeds his actual .388 wOBA. The Giants are surely pleased with their decision to allocate some precious luxury tax space to bring him back.
- Rene Rivera, C, Angels ($2.8MM): Known as a glove-first backstop, Rivera has similarly raced out of the gates. He’s slashing a robust .283/.340/.478 through fifty trips to the plate. In this case, the good fortune is apparent on the face of the stat sheet, as Rivera carries a .407 BABIP and .308 xwOBA. He won’t keep it up, but the added offense has been a nice bonus thus far for the Halos.
- Matt Adams, 1B/OF, Nationals ($4MM): If there’s one player on this list whose performance to date has arguably changed his outlook, it may be Adams — though, to be fair, we already held this debate about him last year. The big difference? The 29-year-old is not only mashing taters at a Ruthian rate (ten in 95 plate appearances) with the batted-ball output to match (.464 xwOBA), but is drawing walks in 14.7% of his plate appearances — more than double his career rate. He has been one of the most productive hitters in the game to this point of the season.
- Curtis Granderson, OF, Blue Jays ($5MM): The veteran outfielder seemed to fade late in 2017, but he’s back strong to begin the current campaign. There’s likely some batted-ball fortune (.419 BABIP) at play, but Granderson is walking at a career-high 19.1% rate and still delivering plenty of pop (.216 ISO). That makes his soaring strikeout rate (29.8%) easier to stomach.
- Jonathan Lucroy, C, Athletics ($6.5MM): His framing numbers still lag his once-outstanding levels, and the power may never fully return, but Lucroy is providing good value to the A’s after signing late. Thus far he owns a .289/.355/.392 batting line, which is above league average despite the fact that Lucroy has not yet hit a home run. His days as a star may be over, but it seems that Lucroy has figured out a way to get on base enough to remain a regular presence behind the dish, where he remains respected even if he no longer steals strikes with the best of them.
- Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals ($6.5MM): This deal includes a mutual option, but there’s little reason to believe it’ll function as more than a means of pushing back some of the salary. Moose has picked up right where he left off last year, with ten long balls and a .292/.325/.569 slash over 154 plate appearances. It seems reasonable to anticipate that K.C. will get a shot at cashing him in for some young talent at the deadline.
Moose should bring kc some solid returns around the deadline. If I was a GM I’d be looking to add a 3b with world series experience.
Why not add a Cy Young winner too while your living on another planet
Why the sarcasm towards that comment? He’s dead on. The is cheap with an option
Oh now that’s my bad I read it wrong.
I thought he was saying he wants to get that 3B back in a trade, that’s why the sarcasm. Your gonna get a prospect not a MLB ready player for Moose at deadline.
St Louis is the most logical landing spot for Moose in my opinion
Or Atlanta. Or the Yankees.
Why would the Yanks want or even need Moose???
A lot can happen between now and July.
If I’m GM and I’m in need of a proven 3B, I’m dealing for Machado with extension details agreed. I like Riley but Machado is a gamechanger!
There’s a zero chance Machado agrees to an extension with any team. If it were mathematically possible, the chance would be less than zero..
Extension details agreed? Good luck with that. That guy is the epitome of ‘testing the free agent waters.’ Also, he has stated he wants to play SS.
You have a better shot at Trumps taxes then getting an “extension agreement” from Machado. And if you believe any differently I’ll send you the link to my oceanfront property in Colorado for sale at rock bottom prices.
No. You’re not doing that.
Batting injury, I doubt the Yankees would be interested. Although I’m sure he would be a nice luxury to have for half the season
That’s one of the things the Yankees have zero need for.
Unless you’re a starting pitcher the Yankees have zero need for you right now
Some people don’t watch the games evidently. Boy they’re hanging in there as far as pitching, but I know they’d prefer to add.
Joey wentz for moustakas
Maybe the Dodgers ?
Isn’t Mitch Moreland on a 1 yr deal?
Even if Moose continues at this pace, his market next offseason will still stagnate, forcing him to take another subpar contract. No one wants his lack of OBP skills, so I don’t know if his performance really matters.
He’s still a cheaper “rental” than Machado for a few months and the post season for a team in need of a 3b. But I see your point about his ability to draw the free pass or lack thereof.
Neil Walker is starting to heat up as well
Lol he is hitting better, but let’s not get too excited yet for a hitter that just broke the .200 barrier.
One, he signed late so he had no Spring Training. Two, he hasn’t played that much due to Austin being hot early. Three, the last seven games he’s hitting .375 with a .565 OBP and those hits have been in key situations. Four, he’s a notoriously slow starter at the plate. Finally, he’s played rock solid defense at first and with him there and the kids at second and third their Dwar has improved dramatically.
Walker slumped to start the year. Now he’s out of his slump, and it’s perfectly reasonable to expect him to hit around his .273/.344/.451 career numbers against righty pitchers, from here on out.
Was just writing about him for the pitching version of this post.
Moose’s OBP would still have me fretting if I was a rival Gm looking to make a move.
I get the importance of OBP, and as a Royals fan I get as frustrated as anyone at the number of walks we take, but there’s more than one way to skin a cat. People obsess over one particular category too much in the game right now. Yes, it would be nice if he walked more but he’s still an extremely valuable player and has proven now over a several year period (he was raking before he got hurt and missed 2016). Moose doesn’t strike out an obscene amount, especially by today’s standards and he has proven he can hit the ball the other way to beat the shift. He’s a much more complete hitter than a lot of the other pull-lefties out there. Not saying his market won’t be limited, but watching him play every day you get a better understanding for the type of hitter he is.
Add to that he had almost no platoon split last year and has shown a significant increase in his ability to hit lefthanders for power and his intangibles/postseason experience.
Look at all of those current and former Mets players….A-Gon, Rene Rivera, & Curtis Granderson. I’m glad both Rene and Granderson are doing well. Solid guys with something left to offer. I was hoping Rene would stick around, but as the #3 catcher, then Mets were never going to spend $2m+ for him.
Admittedly I was (and still am) against the AGon signing, as I vastly preferred Lucas Duda or Matt Adams to play 1B.
Mutual options are also good for psychological reasons, to make the player feel like it’s a two-year deal, when they rarely get exercised — and it’s really one-year deal.
I suspect this had a greater role in incorporating that Mutual option into Moose’s contract, than simply “pushing money back”! but you’ll always know more than me, about baseball, Jeff! Just offering my $0.02
I have no idea. When in doubt, I just go to financial incentives.
While Gonzalez has potential upside based on his history, please remember his numbers are inflated by just playing in Cincinnati.
The Angels could really use Moose. They need to add an every day left handed power hitter. Especially with Calhoun struggling so much. Simba is hitting good, but he shouldn’t be hitting 5th.