What are the five best free agent signings in Orioles history?

What are the five best free agent signings in Orioles history?
November 4, 2012, 10:15 am
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On Saturday, we looked at the worst contracts in Orioles history. With free agency underway, let’s look at the five best signings in Orioles history.

STEVE STONE

In the early years of free agency, the Orioles looked for value. In spite of having years of outstanding teams, the Orioles didn’t draw well, and aimed for overlooked players. Stone was one of them.

Before Stone came to Baltimore, he had a lifetime record under .500. After signing a four-year, $700,000 contract in Nov. 1978, Stone won 11 games for the pennant winning Orioles.

A year later, Stone set a team mark with 25 wins, a record that hasn’t been challenged. Early in 1981, he hurt his arm and his career ended, but the Orioles got a 25-game winner for $700,000. That was a bargain, even in 1980.

RAFAEL PALMEIRO

Everyone remembers Palmeiro skulking away from the Orioles in shame, but that was after his second stint with the team.

Of course, he could have been using steroids then, but after signing with the Orioles for five years and $30.35 million in Dec. 1993, he was terrific.

In the last four years of the contract, Palmeiro averaged nearly 40 home runs and 120 RBIs a season. The first year was shortened by 50 games because of the player’s strike.

The Orioles made the playoffs twice, and Palmeiro was part of a fearsome lineup.

His second time around? He’d like to forget that, and so would everyone else.

ROBERTO ALOMAR

Pat Gillick made the best free agent signings. Alomar, Randy Myers and B.J. Surhoff all were huge contributors to the Orioles 1996-97 success.

Alomar signed a three-year, $17 million contract in late 1995 and had perhaps the best season of any second baseman—ever.

With 22 home runs, 94 RBIs, a .328 average and a .411 on-base percentage, Alomar sparkled, and he played great defense, too.

His 1997 wasn’t quite as good after a series of injuries, and his 1998 wasn’t any better, but the Orioles had enormous success with him at second.

RANDY MYERS

Myers was the ultimate hired gun, two years at $6.55 million. He held the club record with 45 saves in 1997 until Jim Johnson broke it in 2012. He had 31 saves in 1996.

After two superb years, both winning ones for the Orioles, Myers was gone. His career ended a year later.

Not only did the Orioles get two great years out of Myers, they didn’t have to pay the $18 million for three wasted years.

B.J. SURHOFF

Surhoff signed with the Orioles in Dec. 1995, and with the exception of two-and-a-half years with Atlanta, he’s never left. Gillick signed him for three years and $4.75 million. Surhoff re-signed for five more years, and thought he’d never leave.

As part of the biggest housecleaning in team history, Syd Thrift sent him to Atlanta in July 2000. He didn’t want to go and wept at his departure press conference.

Surhoff failed to get to the World Series in three tries with the Braves, and returned to the Orioles, signing three consecutive  one-year contracts.

He ended his career in 2005 at 40 after eight productive seasons with the Orioles. Surhoff is around the team in spring training and during the season as a part-time coach.

His stats were never gaudy. Surhoff’s best season was in 1999 when he played all 162 games, had 28 home runs, 107 RBIs and batted .308.

A steady, dependable, but unexciting player, Surhoff exemplified what was right with the Orioles.

HONORABLE MENTION

WEI-YIN CHEN

After Dan Duquette signed the unknown Chen to a three-year, $11.3 million contract, the Taiwanese left-hander led the Orioles with 12 wins.

If Chen has another year like that, his contract will make the list.