Free-agent spending offers no guarantees

Stats & Information's weekly look at baseball moves wraps up this offseason's free-agent market.

Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox, winners of the 2010-11 Hot Stove Free-Agent Spending title. The Red Sox put up just more than $162 million in potential payments (whether they're made by them or another team) to free agents, with most of that promised to Carl Crawford via a seven-year, $142 million deal.

World Series Champions
Spending Rank (Previous Offseason)

It was the first time in the period for which we have free-agent spending data (starting with the 1990-91 offseason) that the Red Sox led the way in winter purchases.

Should Red Sox fans start planning for another parade of Duck Boats through the streets of Boston this fall? Not quite.

Since the 1990-91 offseason, just three teams that made the biggest potential commitments to free-agent signings during the winter went on to win the World Series in the following season: the 1996 Yankees, the 1997 Marlins and the 2009 Yankees.

Over the past 10 offseasons, four teams that have promised the most money to free agents went on to make the postseason the next season.

The St. Louis Cardinals, whose signing of Matt Holliday last offseason put them atop the free-agent race last offseason, were the latest to be unsuccessful in that regard.

Since the 1990-91 offseason, the lowest-ranked teams that went on to win the World Series the next season were the 1991 Minnesota Twins and the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, which both finished 17th in the free-agent spending race.

So two teams who figure to be in the postseason mix this year -- the Milwaukee Brewers (27th) and Atlanta Braves (29th) -- both would have pulled off an unlikely feat if they are hoisting a World Series trophy at the end of October, even though both improved themselves significantly via trades (and the Braves' subsequent contract extension for Dan Uggla).

-- Katie Sharp

Werth's worth all in the timing

The person whose timing was best this offseason: Washington Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth.

Different Year, Different Market
Career numbers at time of signing

Werth took advantage of a market in which six teams committed more than $100 million in total to players (five did so in the previous three offseasons combined).

Put Werth's career numbers prior to his free agency next to those of the two big-ticket right-handed power-hitting outfielders last offseason (Jason Bay and Matt Holliday), as we did in the chart to your right, and you can see just how well Werth made out.

The Nationals paid Werth as if he were Holliday, but statistically speaking, he compares more strongly to Bay.

-- Derek Czenczelewski

The other end of the spending spectrum

• This is the least financially active (relative to others) that the Houston Astros have been in free agency in the 20 years for which we have data. They ranked 28th among teams in promised money to free agents this offseason, with Bill Hall (one year, $3 million) their biggest signing.

The Astros did ink pitcher Wandy Rodriguez to a three-year, $34 million deal, so they weren't completely inactive this winter.

• The New York Mets rated 24th in free-agent potential commitments in Sandy Alderson’s first offseason as general manager. They haven’t rated this low since ranking 26th in the 1996-97 offseason, and unlike the Astros, they didn't offer any long-term contract extensions beyond the two-year, $7.5 million deal given to R.A. Dickey.

• The Pittsburgh Pirates were the most active that they’ve been in quite some time., ranking 19th in potential free-agent spending, the highest they’ve ranked since the 2002-03 offseason, when they were 16th.

• The Cleveland Indians, whose lone major league free-agent addition was Austin Kearns (one year, $1.3 million), ranked last in money committed to free agents, after finishing 29th in potential spending last offseason (one spot ahead of the Marlins).

They are the third franchise in the past 10 offseasons to have back-to-back offseasons ranking that low, joining the 2004-05 Pirates and the 2006-07 Diamondbacks.

-- Mark Simon