At long last, spring (training) is here!

Best free agents $2 million and under:
Paul Maholm
Maholm

1 Just when you thought the Dodgers paid everybody on their team $20 million or so, just for kicks, along came Paul Maholm to disprove that theory. A one-year, $1.5 million guarantee for a dependable left-handed, back-of-the-rotation starter? "One of the best signings of the winter, especially when you compare it to the kind of money other guys got who are no better than he is," one NL exec said.

2 How 'bout this? It's another bargain signing for the Dodgers -- one year, $1.8 million for 39-year-old reliever Jamey Wright, who is closing in on his 19th season even though he hasn't spent three full seasons with the same team since the '90s. Wright is one of just 11 right-handed setup men who have appeared in 60-plus games in each of the past three seasons (but have fewer than five saves in that span). "There's a level of professionalism there," one NL exec said, "that you don't get from a lot of guys."

3 Quick quiz: Name the only free-agent position player signed by the Pirates to a major league contract this winter. Nope, not Cano. It was, of course, Clint Barmes, for a mere one year and $2 million. On one hand, Barmes (.211, .249/.309 last season) isn't exactly Troy Tulowitzki with the old Louisville Slugger. On the other, he led all NL shortstops not named Andrelton Simmons in UZR/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games). And whaddaya know, the Pirates noticed.

Best free agents signed to minor league contracts:

1 Mark Reynolds, Brewers: We count three infielders in baseball who have hit at least 20 home runs in each of the past six seasons. Two of them are Miguel Cabrera and Fielder, who will earn a combined $46 million this season. The third is Reynolds, who just signed a minor league deal with the Brewers. No wonder he wiped out the rest of the field in this survey.

2 Jason Kubel, Twins: The last time Kubel headed out into free agency, he was leaving the Twins, for a two-year, $16 million payday in Arizona. Now, for zero risk, the Twins are getting back a guy who had 30 homers and an .833 OPS as recently as two seasons ago. This struck our voters as excellent free-agent shopping.

3 Alfredo Aceves, Orioles: OK, so he might not be a model of decorum, but did you know Aceves has a better career Adjusted ERA-Plus (118) than Zack Greinke, Max Scherzer, Tim Lincecum or Gio Gonzalez? Go ahead. Call us devious number manipulators if you want. We plead guilty. But Aceves is still worth a shot on a minor league deal, right?

Most important injury comebacks

      1. Albert Pujols (Angels)
      2. Matt Kemp (Dodgers)
      3. Derek Jeter (Yankees)

AL rookies to keep an eye on this spring

      1. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox
      2. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Mariners
      3. Jose Abreu, 1B/DH, White Sox

NL rookies to keep an eye on this spring

      1. Billy Hamilton, OF, Reds
      2. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals
      3. Archie Bradley, RHP, Diamondbacks

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