At long last, spring (training) is here!

Checkbook champs

Yankees 1 It's a good thing the Yankees set out this winter to stay under the luxury-tax threshold. If they'd been in a what-the-heck kind of mood from the get-go, they might have spent more than the gross national product of France. But just so they know, for $503 million, they could have acquired 72.3 million Derek Jeter heroes from Othello's Deli in Astoria -- instead of all those actual baseball players they gave it to (including Jeter himself).

Rangers 2 Let's see now. Shin-Soo Choo got $130 million. They owe Prince Fielder another $138 million, even with Detroit helpfully kicking in another $30 million. Another $4.85 million went to guys who crouch for a living ( Geovany Soto and J.P. Arencibia), and there was still $3.75 million left for Tommy Hanson and Jason Frasor. That comes to $276.6 million worth of Texas-size spending on our calculator app. Which would have been almost as well spent on 10.6 million smoking Asada Jalisco fajitas at Pappasito's, if you ask us.

Mariners 3 You'd think that, for $266.8 million, the Mariners could have led this category just once, but, apparently, a quarter-billion dollars just doesn't buy what it used to anymore. Robbie Cano grabbed $240 million of this pot, obviously. Bet you didn't know the rest went to Fernando Rodney, Corey Hart, John Buck and, of course, Willie Bloomquist. For what it's worth, that $266.8 million could have also allowed the Mariners to purchase 92.3 million Espresso Macchiatos at Cloud City Coffee. But who needs them? Just the Cano contract alone ought to be enough to keep them up all night.

Best free-agent signings

      1. Brian McCann, Yankees (five years, $85 million)
      2. Tim Hudson, Giants (two years, $23 million)
      3. Jose Abreu, White Sox (six years, $68 million)

Jacoby Ellsbury raked in more dollars. Masahiro Tanaka inspired more headlines. Carlos Beltran and Derek Jeter might have generated more New York pizzazz. But what was the Yankees' best signing of the winter? McCann, said our voters, emphatically. "McCann signed so early, he's easily forgotten," said one NL exec, "but a great signing."

Fun poll fact: Want to take a stab at how many different players got at least one vote in the best-free-agent competition? Would you believe 31 -- including one vote for Roy Halladay as the best one-day contract of the winter.

Worst free-agent signings

      1. Robinson Cano, Mariners (10 years, $240 million)     
      2. Scott Feldman Astros (three years, $30 million)
      3. (tie) Jacoby Ellsbury, Yankees (seven years, $153 million); Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees (seven years, $155 million, plus $20 million posting fee)

We rarely have a dramatic difference of opinion with the choices we get back in this survey, but this would be one time we'd like to respectfully disagree with the choice of Cano as "worst free agent" or "worst signing" of the winter. There's a second, related category, which is coming right up, in which the Cano deal absolutely belongs -- the Most Outrageous Contract department. But "worst free agent?" Don't see it. "There's no doubt this was a terrible [contract]," said one exec. "It'll be a disaster on the back end, but there's one thing I think people are forgetting: He's a great player." Right. And not a good thing to forget!

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