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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Best MLB offseason signings and trades to date

Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani watches his solo

Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani watches his solo home run during the third inning against the Athletics on April 8. Credit: AP / Kyusung Gong

Nearly a month into the season, after one of the stranger winters in recent memory, the baseball landscape is finally settling in to what we’re used to. The last of the big-name free agents signed this past week when Jose Bautista agreed to a minor-league deal with the Braves — to learn third base — so we figured it would be a good time to check in with the biggest offseason acquisitions, including the top trades.

On the free-agent front, teams spent $1.518 billion on contracts during this cycle, average of $5.6 million, according to Spotrac.com. That’s actually up from last year’s total of $1.428 billion, but the contract average dipped from $6.6 million. Go back two years, however, and the difference is more striking. During the 2016 offseason, teams spent $2.418 billion ($7.2-million average) in a market spurred by huge deals to David Price ($217 million) and Zack Greinke ($206.5 million).

To see who’s getting the most bang for the buck through Friday, and which general managers are looking smart to this point, here’s a look at some of the more notable headline-making signings and trades from the bizarre winter.

1. Shohei Ohtani, SP/DH, Angels, ($545,000, $2.3-million bonus)

Actually outliving the hype. Despite this week’s blip against the sizzling Red Sox, Ohtani (the pitcher) has a 11.4 K/9 ratio and an .800 WHIP in three starts (2-1, 3.60 ERA). At the plate, he’s batting .342 with three homers, 11 RBIs and a 1.048 OPS in 10 games.

2. Gerrit Cole, RHP, Astros, (trade from Pirates)

Became only second pitcher since 1908 with 11-plus strikeouts in three consecutive starts to begin a season, joining Nolan Ryan (1973 Angels). Astros are undefeated in his first four starts while Cole (2-0, 0.96 ERA) has pitched at least seven innings with no more than two earned runs and five hits each time.

3. J.D. Martinez, OF/DH, Red Sox (5 years, $110M)

Martinez’s five-month courtship with the Red Sox had an inevitable conclusion, and it was all worth it for the Red Sox as he’s drilled four homers with 15 RBIs with an .983 OPS through the first 17 games. Boston can be rough for newcomers, but those numbers, along with a 17-2 start, and Fenway has never been friendlier.

4. Jake Arrieta, RHP, Phillies (3 years, $75M)

One of the latest holdouts, Arrieta didn’t sign until March 12, less than three weeks before Opening Day. Despite the delayed start, it appears the Phillies are getting vintage Arrieta, who is 2-0 with a 2.04 ERA while averaging nearly six innings with a 0.962 WHIP.

5. Lorenzo Cain, CF, Brewers (5 years, $80M)

The Brewers (12-9) are right in the thick of what’s shaping up to be an ultracompetitive National League Central and Cain is a big reason why. Cain has a slash line of .304/.402/.478 with a pair of homers and four stolen bases while providing his usual superb defense at a priority position.

6. Wade Davis, RHP, Rockies (3 years, $52M)

The Rockies targeted Davis to be the centerpiece of their offseason plans to build a super-bullpen and he’s earning his cash, saving eight of their 11 wins with a 10.8 K/9 ratio. Davis has allowed three hits, including one homer, in 8 1⁄3 innings.

7. Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals (1 year, $6.5M)

Coming off a 38-homer season, Moustakas was humbled by having to return to Kansas City on a mid-March deal. But the way he’s hitting now, Moustakas is giving the Royals one of the young season’s most coveted trade chips, with five homers, 14 RBIs and a .986 OPS through 18 games.

8. Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers (trade from Braves)

Nearly three years to the day the Dodgers dumped his $160-million contract on the Padres, Los Angeles took him back from Atlanta this winter and Kemp seems to be enjoying his homecoming. He’s batting .340 with three homers and a .962 OPS, making Kemp one of the most dangerous hitters on the 8-10 Dodgers.

9. Todd Frazier, 3B, Mets (2 years, $17M)

Much of Frazier’s value often is attributed to his clubhouse qualities, and he’s definitely boosted the character of the 14-5 Mets. But Frazier also has contributed at the plate, with three homers, 14 RBIs and a .920 OPS to go with his solid glove at third.

10. Giancarlo Stanton, OF/DH, Yankees (trade from Marlins)

When the most notable thing about Stanton’s pinstriped stint so far is the amount of booing he’s received in the Bronx, that’s not what general manager Brian Cashman envisioned with this megadeal. Stanton has four homers and 12 RBIs, but nearly twice as many strikeouts (29) as hits (15) while batting .205 with a .740 OPS.

11. Zack Cozart, IF, Angels (3 years, $38M)

The versatile Cozart was signed to play third base for the Angels, but he’s started more games (13) at second due to Ian Kinsler’s groin injury. Cozart has a .713 OPS with two homers, including an April 4 walkoff winner against the Indians.

12. Dee Gordon, CF, Mariners (trade from Marlins)

A career infielder, Gordon was acquired to play centerfield in Seattle, and he hasn’t been bothered at the plate by the switch. Gordon is batting .307 and is 9-for-9 in stolen-base attempts to lead the majors leagues.

13. Christian Yelich, OF, Brewers (trade from Marlins)

Yelich gets an incomplete grade to this point after missing 12 games due to a strained oblique muscle. When on the field, Yelich has batted .382 (13-for-34) with a homer, two doubles and a triple.

14. Eric Hosmer, 1B, Padres (8 years, $144M)

Awarded the offseason’s most lucrative contract in total dollars, Hosmer has been dogged by early back stiffness as the rebuilding Padres got off to an 8-13 start. Playing in a pitcher’s park, Hosmer has a .775 OPS with more strikeouts (21) than hits (20).

15. Evan Longoria, 3B, Giants (trade from Rays)

Part of the Giants’ winter plan to add instant offense to their anemic lineup, Longoria, who has been bothered by ankle injury, is batting .231 with three homers and a .731 OPS. A sluggish start for the Giants’ new $73.5-million investment.

16. Marcell Ozuna, OF, Cardinals (trade from Marlins)

Acquired to be the main weapon for a Cardinals’ lineup that needed firepower, Ozuna is off to a popgun start, batting .247 with two home runs and a .622 OPS. This is from a ’17 All-Star that finished with a slash line of .312/.376/.548 and 37 homers.

17. Yu Darvish, RHP, Cubs (6 years, $126M)

Basically, the Cubs chose Darvish over Jake Arrieta, and it’s a race they could end up losing in the long run. Through three starts, Darvish has averaged five innings with a 6.00 ERA and 1.533 WHIP. Still has 10.2 K/9, but Darvish has yet to put World Series ghosts behind him.

18. Carlos Santana, 1B, Phillies (3 years, $60M)

The Phillies surprised everyone by jumping to sign Santana on December 20, and so far, he’s been one of the few things about this 12-7 team that seems to be behind schedule. Santana was batting .162 with two homers and a .595 OPS, but Philly’s hitter-friendly park should help those numbers rebound before long.

19. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Giants (trade from Pirates)

Getting McCutchen involved a much smaller financial commitment from the Giants ($12.25 million) than the Longoria trade, so his struggles may be a little easier to stomach. McCutchen has three homers and 11 RBIs, but is hitting .213 with a .654 OPS that’s nearly 200 points lower from last year.

20. Jay Bruce, RF, Mets (3 years, $39M)

Bruce signed what many believed to be a below-market deal to return to Mets in mid-January, but he’s off to a sluggish start that could be impacted by a nagging case of plantar fasciitis. Bruce was hitting .190 and his .615 OPS ranked 54th among qualified NL outfielders.

21. Alex Cobb, RHP, Orioles (4 years, $57M)

Signed a week before Opening Day, maybe Cobb is struggling to make up for lost time because he’s only added to the Orioles’ rotation woes he was supposed to help fix. Cobb hasn’t made it through four innings in his last two starts with a 15.43 ERA. He’s allowed 20 hits in those seven innings.

22. Neil Walker, IF, Yankees (1 year, $4M)

Initially considered to be a huge bargain for a versatile switch-hitter, Walker has been a liability for the struggling Yankees, with a slash line of .179/.246/.460 and zero homers. If this keeps up, they can’t afford to carry him on the roster.

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