Five best free agent signings so far

Five best free agent signings so far
December 20, 2012, 11:15 am
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The big free agent signings continue. Just not in Baltimore.

With the millions that have been thrown around, the Orioles have been content to let others do most of the spending. They’ve made one good signing, Nate McLouth, one year at $2 million plus $500,000 in incentives.

They declined to sign Mark Reynolds, whose deal with the Indians is one year at $6 million.

Those are two good signings. Here are my choices for five of the best signings. They’re all for a year.

1) Bartolo Colon, one year, $3 million with Oakland

Colon was suspended for 50 games due to use of performance-enhancing-drugs. That suspension likely cost him millions, but the Athletics, for whom he was pitching, gladly re-signed him.

He’s 39, been pitching in the major leagues since 1997, and is nearly 50 games over .500 in his big league career. Colon has stellar control, and last year struck out about four times as many batters as he walked.

Colon is both an innings eater and an eater. He’s listed at 5-foot-11 and 265 lbs.

2) Eric Chavez, one year, $3 million with Arizona

After the Yankees found out Alex Rodriguez might miss the first half of the season after hip surgery, it seemed natural that they’d re-sign Chavez.

He filled in capably last season with a .281 average and 16 home runs, but was 0-for-16 in the post-season

Instead of signing him at Arizona’s price, they signed Kevin Youkilis for four times as much.

3) Ryan Madson, one year, $3.5 million with Los Angeles Angels

Madson missed all last year after Tommy John surgery, and still got $3.5 million from the Angels. It’s a hefty pay cut from the $6 million he earned from Cincinnati after not pitching, but if he returns to form, it could be a terrific pickup for the Angels.

After eight effective years with the Phillies, the final one as a closer, Madson tried to cash in. Last year, his market was tepid, so he signed for one year.

It’s his first time around in the American League, and if healthy, Madson should do well.

4) Reed Johnson, one year, $1.75 million with Atlanta

At 36, Johnson is still an effective part-time player. He has a lifetime batting average of .311 against left-handed pitchers. Johnson is also a good pinch-hitter with a .286 average.

He’s an example of a player that probably is more useful to a good team as a part-time player than a non-contending one. His pinch-hitting abilities are more suited to the National League.

5) James Loney,  one year, $2 million with Tampa Bay

Loney had a bad season in 2012. It wasn’t a good time. He found a lukewarm free agent market and settled in with the Rays as Carlos Pena’s replacement at first.

Loney is an excellent contact hitter with a lifetime .282 batting average. With the Dodgers, he had three seasons with at least 30 doubles, and he’s driven in 90 runs twice.

At 28, he’s looking for a good season to establish his market value.