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The winter's top 10 value moves

2/6/2012

Johnny Damon is still looking for a job, and so is Manny Ramirez, but almost all of the winter money has been spent -- and about half of it went to three players.

There has been approximately $1.27 billion on free agents this offseason. Albert Pujols ($246 million), Prince Fielder ($214 million) and Jose Reyes ($106 million) will get $566 million of that, or about 45 percent. The majority of the headlines belonged to those three players, but most of the moves were incremental.

Here's one ranking of the best under-the-radar moves of the winter:

1. Ryan Madson: One year/$8.5 million, Cincinnati Reds

Some general managers viewed Madson as one of the top three free-agent relievers in the market, maybe just a bit behind Jonathan Papelbon, because he doesn't have as much experience as a closer, but right along with Heath Bell because of Madson's stuff and postseason notches. But when the big dollars were paid out, Madson was still unsigned, and in the end Cincinnati got an outstanding reliever for a short-term deal.

2. Hiroki Kuroda: One year/$10 million, New York Yankees

Kuroda is known to be very meticulous and precise in his decision-making, and it became apparent that he would consider pitching in only a couple of places. Within the same hour that news broke of the Michael Pineda trade, word came down that the Yankees had landed the veteran starter for an affordable one-year deal. Last year, Kuroda ranked 71st in run support among major league starters -- and he'll likely get a whole lot more this season.

3. Carlos Pena: One year/$7.25 million, Tampa Bay Rays

There will be a stretch of games this year when Pena will carry the Rays with a burst of home runs, and with his strong defense, he fits right in with what separates Tampa Bay. The Rays get a good veteran player without overpaying, which is what they always have to do.

4. Jason Kubel and Joe Saunders: Two years/$15 million and one year/$6 million, respectively, Arizona Diamondbacks

Steadily, Arizona has built the most depth for any team in the NL, and these two signings are a big part of that. The left-handed-hitting Kubel will help balance what was a very right-handed lineup in the playoffs last year and allow manager Kirk Gibson to create better matchups. And Saunders, like Edwin Jackson, is a quality starter for the back end of what should be a good rotation.

5. Bruce Chen: Two years/$9 million, Kansas City Royals

There are obviously split opinions on what Chen can provide, given that no contender stepped up to pry the lefty away from Kansas City for the stretch drive. But Chen has been a solid, steady producer for the Royals, and they locked him up for a couple of years at a reasonable rate.

6. Edwin Jackson: One year/approx. $8 million, Washington Nationals

The final terms of Jackson's deal aren't yet known, but no matter what it is, it'll be for a lot less than what he had sought at the outset of the offseason -- a deal in the $70-75 million range, according to executives. And while there are questions about how good Jackson really is, which is why the big-money bidding for him was lukewarm, there is no doubt about whether he could be a productive innings-eater on a one-year deal. And in a year when Stephen Strasburg will be limited to about 170 innings, 200 innings from Jackson in the No. 3 or No. 4 spot in the rotation will be well worth what the Nationals are paying for him. Washington is in position to contend for the NL East title because of the quality and depth of its rotation.

7. Ryan Doumit: One year/$3 million, Minnesota Twins

The Twins needed a safety net at catcher, first base and designated hitter because of the injury histories of Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer, so they aggressively moved on Doumit, who can flat-out hit. Last year, he batted .303, with a .353 on-base percentage and an .830 OPS.

8. Reed Johnson: One year/$1.15 million, Chicago Cubs

He was coveted by other teams as a possible trade target last season, but Cubs GM Jim Hendry and interim GM Randy Bush both kept him partly because they wanted to give the next GM a better chance to hang onto the productive outfielder. And Johnson re-signed -- a good rate for the team and a good situation for him.

9. Jim Thome: One year/$1.25 million, Philadelphia Phillies

Thome wanted to play for Charlie Manuel, and the Phillies wanted Thome, who will be treated by opposing managers and pitchers as a major threat coming off the bench as a pinch-hitter, no matter what his actual production is, because of his history. And early in the year, Thome is expected to start at least some games at first base.

10. Endy Chavez: One year/$1.5 million, Baltimore Orioles

The veteran outfielder had a productive season for the Texas Rangers last year, posting a .749 OPS with 10 stolen bases. He'll be a help for Buck Showalter as an extra outfielder.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Boston Red Sox settled an arbitration case with Alfredo Aceves.

2. The Nationals agreed to terms with Rick Ankiel, who will be an alternative to Bryce Harper in spring training.

3. Dustin McGowan is confident he will win a spot in the Toronto rotation.

4. The Reds haven't talked to Roy Oswalt in a while, and if he wanted to sign, they'd have to squeeze him into their budget, writes John Fay.

Other stuff

Buster Posey faces a lot of questions, as Andrew Baggarly writes.

• Some fast facts on Laynce Nix.

Jake Peavy says he's ready to go.

And today will be better than yesterday.