With the winter meetings opening Sunday, free-agent contracts figure to be discussed at a dizzying clip, with proposals — and cash — being tossed in every direction.
There have been 39 free-agent contracts signed for at least $100 million (including this week’s deal between Patrick Corbin and the Nationals), with seven the most signed in a single offseason (after the 2015 season).
There were three free-agent contracts worth at least $100 million signed last offseason, by Eric Hosmer (Padres), Yu Darvish (Cubs) and J.D. Martinez (Red Sox). (Martinez could opt out before his deal hits $100 million.)
There have been eight free-agent contracts of at least $200 million, most recently those signed by David Price and Zack Greinke in the offseason following the 2015 season. The most $200 million contracts handed out in a single offseason is two: Price and Greinke in the 2015 offseason and Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder in the offseason following 2011.
What about the $250 million mark? We’ve heard for a while that Bryce Harper or Manny Machado could get a commitment that high — or higher. There have been two $250 million contracts handed out to free agents — and both went to Alex Rodriguez, following the 2000 and 2007 seasons.
If we widen the net to include all contracts — not just those given to free agents, but also including extensions to players prior to reaching free agency — the largest contract by total value in MLB history was the 13-year, $325 million deal given to Giancarlo Stanton following the 2014 season. That’s the only $300 million contract in MLB history.
What about one team handing out two big-money free-agent contracts in the same offseason? There is talk the Phillies would consider doing that this year, but to date there have been only three instances of a team handing out multiple $100 million free-agent contracts in a single offseason. The Yankees following the 2008 season were the first to do it, for CC Sabathia ($161M) and Mark Teixeira ($180M). Then the post-2013 Yankees did so, for Jacoby Ellsbury ($153M) and Masahiro Tanaka ($155M). And the Tigers did it after the 2015 season, for Jordan Zimmermann ($110M) and Justin Upton ($132.75M).
Having already signed Corbin to a $140 million deal, the Nationals could be in line to match that mark this offseason.
The most money a team has ever committed in free agency in a single offseason is $471 million by the Yankees following the 2013 season. There have been four instances of a team committing at least $300 million to free-agent contracts in a single offseason: the 2013 Yankees, 2008 Yankees ($441M), 2007 Yankees ($396M) and 2011 Angels ($321M).
As for total value, before the offseason following the 2016 season, no relief pitcher had ever signed a free-agent contract worth more than $50 million. The four largest free-agent contracts by total value for a reliever all have been signed since then: Chapman ($86M in 2016), Jansen ($80M in ’16), Mark Melancon ($62M in ’16) and Wade Davis ($52M in ’17).