Blue Jays' best/worst free-agent signings | Baseball | CBC Sports

MLBBlue Jays' best/worst free-agent signings

Posted: Thursday, November 10, 2011 | 01:46 AM

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Frank Thomas wasn’t a complete bust as a Blue Jay, says CBCSports.ca blogger Kevin Glew, noting he led the team with 26 home runs, 95 RBIs and a .377 on-base percentage in 2007 before Toronto released him early the next season. (Elsa/Getty Images) Frank Thomas wasn’t a complete bust as a Blue Jay, says CBCSports.ca blogger Kevin Glew, noting he led the team with 26 home runs, 95 RBIs and a .377 on-base percentage in 2007 before Toronto released him early the next season. (Elsa/Getty Images)

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While it seems unlikely the Blue Jays will pursue a big-name free agent this off-season, they have been aggressive in winters past. Who could forget Roger "Cy" Clemens or the bust that was Erik Hanson, writes CBCSports.ca blogger Kevin Glew.

For every Paul Molitor, there's an Erik Hanson.

That's why spending big bucks on a free agent is a risky proposition.

While Molitor excelled with the Blue Jays, Hanson was dreadful during his three seasons in Toronto.

Of course, Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos is aware of this. He knows that designated  hitter David Ortiz - at this point in his career - might be Frank Thomas circa 2008, or that over the course of a long-term deal, closer Jonathan Papelbon could become another B.J. Ryan.

So while it seems unlikely that Anthopoulos will pursue a big name free agent this off-season, the Jays have participated aggressively in the free agent market in the past.

Here's a rundown of the team's best and worst off-season free agent signings:

BEST

Roger Clemens
Contract:
Four years, $40 million US (opt-out clause after second year)
Date signed: Dec. 13, 1996

With then-Red Sox GM Dan Duquette convinced that Clemens was in the twilight of his career. the Blue Jays swooped in and signed the 34-year-old flamethrower. The rejuvenated Rocket would win Cy Young Awards and pitching Triple Crowns (most wins, most strikeouts and top ERA) in both of his seasons as a Jay.

Paul Molitor
Contract:
Three years, $13 million
Date signed: Dec. 7, 1992

A key cog in the vaunted WAMCO offence, Molitor would bat .332, lead the American League in hits (211) and belt a career-high 22 home runs in 1993. But he would save his best for the Fall Classic, when he registered 12 hits in 24 at-bats and was named the World Series MVP. He  also hit .341 in 1994.

Dave Winfield
Contract:
One year, $2.3 million
Date signed: Dec. 19, 1991

Added for his bat and his leadership, the 40-year-old Winfield didn't disappoint. In his sole season as a Jay, the Hall of Famer hit .290, socked 26 homers and recorded the game-winning hit in the sixth and deciding World Series game against the Braves in 1992.

Jack Morris
Contract:
Two years, $10.85 million
Date signed: Dec. 18, 1991

On the heels of his historic pitching performance with the Twins in the 1991 World Series, Morris signed with the Jays and proceeded to win 21 games in 1992 to become the first Toronto hurler to amass 20 victories in a season. His post-season performance was disappointing, but without his 21 regular-season wins, the Jays wouldn't have advanced to the playoffs.

Scott Downs
Contract:
One year, minor league contract
Date signed: Dec. 16, 2004

After mediocre stints with the Chicago Cubs and Montreal Expos, Downs blossomed into one of baseball's best left-handed relievers during his six seasons in Toronto. As an added bonus,  he was a Type-A free agent when he signed with Anaheim last off-season, netting the Jays the  35th overall pick (Jacob Anderson) in the 2011 draft.

Honourable mentions: Dave Stewart (1993), Jose Canseco (1998), Alex Gonzalez (2010)

WORST

Erik Hanson
Contract:
Three years, $9.4 million
Date signed: Dec. 22, 1995

Fresh off a 15-win season with the Red Sox, Hanson was lured to Toronto with a lucrative three-year deal. As ugly as his first season with the Jays was - 13-17 with a 5.41 ERA in 35 starts - the following two campaigns were worse. Injuries limited him to just two starts in 1997 and eight starts in 1998.

B.J. Ryan
Contract:
Five years, $47 million
Date signed: Nov. 29, 2005

It's easy to forget that Ryan's first season with the Jays was one of the best ever by a  closer (allowed just 42 hits in 72 1/3 innings, 38 saves). Unfortunately after a phenomenal 2006, the six-foot-six lefty would pitch in just six games in 2007 before undergoing Tommy John surgery. He would return in 2008 to record 32 saves, but struggles with his control would lead to his release the following campaign. Ryan didn't pitch in 2010 but he still collected $10 million from the Jays.

Ken Dayley
Contract:
Three years, $6.3 million
Date signed: Nov. 26, 1990

After six seasons as a dependable reliever with the St. Louis Cardinals, Dayley was signed to be the Jays' go-to lefty out of the bullpen. Unfortunately, a series of injuries and ailments - including a bout with vertigo - would limit Dayley to just 10 appearances over three seasons.

Corey Koskie
Contract:
Three years, $17.5 million
Date signed: Dec. 14, 2004

After six solid seasons with the Twins, Koskie inked a multi-year deal with the Jays. Unfortunately, the Anola, Man., native hit only .249 and drove in just 36 runs in 97 games with the Jays in 2005 and was dealt to the Brewers the following January. To complete the  transaction, Toronto was forced to eat more than half of the $11.6 million remaining on his contract.

Frank Thomas
Contract:
Two years, $18.12 million
Date signed: Nov. 18, 2006

Thomas was not the bust that most Jays fans make him out to be. In 2007, he led the Jays with 26 home runs, 95 RBIs and a .377 on-base percentage. At the same time, it's hard to deny that the 39-year-old was one-dimensional and barely mobile on the base paths. After a slow start in 2008, the Jays released the future Hall of Famer.

Honourable mentions: Marty Cordova (2000), Kerry Ligtenberg (2004), Tomo Ohka (2007)

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