New York Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu connects with a pitch against the Tampa Bay Rays.

New York Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu connects with a pitch against the Tampa Bay Rays. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire)

We often hear about the worst MLB free agent contracts that have been handed out in years past, but today we’ll celebrate the best five signings in recent memory.

5. Jon Lester (six years, $155 million with Cubs in 2015)

Lester has been a little uneven in his first five years in Chicago, but his overall numbers (74-41, 3.54 ERA, 1.242 WHIP) are actually a bit better than the ones he put up in Boston through his first nine major league seasons. Most importantly, he went 19-5, with a 2.44 ERA, in 2016 and split the National League Championship Series MVP with Javier Baez, en route to the Cubs’ first World Series victory in more than a century. Lester is owed $20 million in the last guaranteed year of his contract in 2020.

4. DJ LeMahieu (two years, $24 million with Yankees in 2019)

The focus is on larger deals in this column, but the Yankees found such a tremendous bargain in LeMahieu that it was hard to leave him off the list. The former Rockies second baseman slashed .327/.375/.518 during his first year in the Bronx and recorded career highs in both home runs (26) and RBIs (102). LeMahieu provided stability for the Bombers in a year rife with chaos because of numerous injuries.

3. Nelson Cruz (four years, $57 million with Mariners in 2015)

Seattle was criticized for offering such a contract to a 34-year-old designated hitter who hit like a poor man’s David Ortiz in Texas, but Cruz lived up to the price tag. In four seasons as a Mariner, he hit 163 home runs and had 414 RBIs. Cruz was named to the All-Star team three times in that span.

2. Adrian Beltre (six years, $91 million with Rangers in 2011)

Beltre played the last eight years of his 21-season, Hall of Fame career in Texas and never ceased to produce solid numbers and defense at third base. He was an integral part of a Rangers team that made the World Series in 2011.

1. Max Scherzer (seven years, $210 million with Nationals in 2015)

Scherzer went from a “very good” pitcher to an elite one since he inked this massive contract with Washington at age 30. He has won two Cy Young Awards as a member of the Nationals and has been the league leader in both WHIP and strikeouts on three occasions. Scherzer was one of the heroes during Washington’s World Series run, with a 3-0 record and 2.40 ERA (30 innings) during the postseason.


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