MLB’s Best 1-year Rentals

by JohnBowen

As the Hot Stove season continues through Christmas time, I thought it would be interesting to look back at the best 1-year rentals in history. Namely, players who, whether by free agency or, more likely, trade, ended up on a different team for one season – before ultimately peacing out at season’s end (usually via free agency). Starting with catcher, we have:

Catcher – Ivan Rodriguez, 2003 (Florida Marlins)

In 2003, Ivan Rodriguez signed a 1-year deal with the Florida Marlins, hoping to land a big free agent deal after a few injury-marred years with the Texas Rangers. The Marlins brought him in to provide leadership, as well as accountability for a quarter of the team’s payroll  - generally a poor allocation of team funds. The move worked out so poorly that they won the World Series, with Pudge hitting just under .300.

First Base – Dick Allen, 1970 (St. Louis Cardinals).

In 1970, Dick Allen came over from Philadelphia in the Curt Flood deal, and slugged 34 home runs in just 122 games for his new team. Allen was then traded to the Dodgers, where he put up an even better season (as a third baseman) – and then ended up being traded for Tommy John before a historically great 1972 season.

Second Base – Rogers Hornsby, 1927 (New York Giants)

After an off-year in 1926 (following a 5-year stretch during which time he hit .402), Rogers Hornsby found himself in a contract dispute with St. Louis and was traded to the New York Giants, where he played under the legendary John McGraw. Hornsby hit .361 and led the league with a .448 OBP, 176 OPS+, and 133 runs scored. Like Allen, Hornsby could make this list twice, as he was traded the following year for gambling issues to the Boston Braves (where he hit .387/.498/.632) and then again to the Chicago Cubs.

Third Base – Adrian Beltre, 2010 (Boston Red Sox)

Adrian Beltre never lived up to expectations during his time in Seattle, even if his glove arguably justified his contract. Injured for much of his final season, Beltre took a 1-year deal with Boston to try and raise his stock. It worked; Beltre hit over .321 with a .555 slugging percentage and a league-best 49 doubles. His silver slugger performance earned him a 5-year deal with the Texas Rangers, during which time he helped get them to the American League pennant.

Shortstop – Jay Bell, 1997 (Kansas City Royals)

In the kind of move the has basically defined the Pirates franchise, Pittsburgh traded Jay Bell and Jeff King to the Royals for Joe Randa and two relievers who amounted to basically nothing; the move might have cost them a very weak NL Central in 1997. Jay Bell hit 21 home runs from the shortstop position while amassing 5.3 WAR – and then signed as a free agent with the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks.

Left Field – Alfonso Soriano, 2006 (Washington Nationals)

3 years after being traded for one of the greatest players of all-time, Alfonso Soriano was swapped by the Texas Rangers for Armando Galarraga Terrmel Sledge, and Brad Wilkerson. On top of that, he was forced by his manager, who happened to one of the very best hitters of all-time to play left field, being as he was a horrific infielder and everything. Though he objected to it at first, the move seemed to fit Soriano, who led the league in assists that season. More notably, he became the first player in history to hit 40 home runs, steal 40 bases, and hit 40 doubles in the same year. After strangely not being traded by the Nationals, Soriano took advantage of one of the worst GM’s in the game and signed a 7-year, 136 million dollar deal to “play” for the Cubs.

Center Field – Kenny Lofton, 1997 (Atlanta Braves)

Feeling a money-crunch, the Atlanta Braves traded David Justice and Marquis Grissom (both under long-term contracts) to the Cleveland Indians for 1 year of Kenny Lofton (who would just bounce back to the Indians the very next season). Lofton performed well in his only year as the Braves lead-off man, hitting .333 with a .407 OBP and playing his customary outstanding defense in center field.

Right Field – Reggie Jackson, 1976 (Baltimore Orioles)

With free agency looming just around the corner for baseball, A’s owner Charlie Finley chose to trade the last year of “Mr. October” to the Orioles for Don Baylor, Paul Mitchell, and Mike Torrez. Jackson ended up leading the league in both slugging and OPS+ while even stealing a career-high 28 bases before signing to play for the Bronx Zoo in 1977, where he demonstrated utmost humility for his team’s accomplishments.

Designated Hitter – Dave Winfield, 1992 (Toronto Blue Jays)

Needing an extra bat to but his team over the ALCS hump, Toronto GM Pat Gillick went out and got 40-year old Dave Winfield to DH. Winfield finished 5th in the MVP voting with a .290/.377/.491 and 26 home runs for the eventual World Champions before going to Minnesota to attain his milestone 3000th hit.

Starting Pitcher – Kevin Brown, 1998 (San Diego Padres)

Some will cry foul that I didn’t pick Jack Morris’s 1991 season with the Twins but – well, you know how I feel about Jack Morris. In any event, that year, 10-inning shutout and all, did not compare to the season Kevin Brown put up for the Padres in 1998. After winning the World Series, the Marlins blew up the team, starting with the trade of their ace, Kevin Brown (for which they attained power-hitting first baseman Derrek Lee, a cornerstone of their second World Series team). Kevin Brown had one year left before free agency and made the most of it, leading all NL pitchers in WAR at 8.4 and leading the Padres to a pennant after finishing last the year before. Brown was screwed out of what should have been his second Cy Young in 3 seasons, but don’t feel too sorry for him. He signed a record-setting 7-year, 105 million dollar deal with the rival Dodgers after the season.

Closer – Rafael Soriano, 2010 (Tampa Bay Rays)

After coming over from the Braves, Rafael Soriano led the American League in saves as a Ray in 2010, with 45. Despite probably wanting to close some more, Rafael Soriano signed with the Yankees after the season to be a set-up man (and now middle reliever) because – well, they paid him a ridiculous sum of money. He made $250,000.00 per inning last season.

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14 Responses to “MLB’s Best 1-year Rentals”

  1. Lefty33 Says:

    For the DH I would add Juan Gonzalez from ‘01 with Cleveland.

    He put up a .325/35/140 season and you knew that they had no chance to sign him for more than one season at his $10 million + price.

    Cleveland was decent and they were in the middle of trying to stack as much offense as they could for a big one year run.

    Gonzalez hit 35, Thome hit 49, Alomar hit 20, Burks hit 28, Cordova hit 20, and even Lofton had 14.

    This balanced out their amazing rotation which put up ERA’s of 4.09, 4.39, 6.21, 5.54, and 6.40 from Colon, Sabathia, Burba, Finley and Nagy.

    After the season he went back to Texas signing for two years and 24 million and promptly imploded via Roid related injuries and other than a decent half year in ‘03 he was never heard from again.

  2. John Says:

    Yeah, that’s a good one too. This time (unlike my other lists), I used an actual DH, and Gonzalez played OF.

    Other good ones:

    Thomas (‘06)
    Alou (‘97)
    Morris (‘91)

  3. John Says:

    Gonzalez played 152 games in his second stint with the Rangers. 32 HR, 105 RBI, 38 2B, .517 SLG. Unfortunately, as Lefty mentioned, it was over 2 seasons.

    He then made 4 million dollars for 30 games in 2004 with the Royals.

    And 600,000 for, ONE PLATE APPEARANCE with the Indians in 2005.

    I wanna know what happened there.

    Made one out and was like…eh…fuck it.

  4. Cameron Says:

    “He then made 4 million dollars for 30 games in 2004 with the Royals.”

    …Don’t remind me.

  5. Cameron Says:

    Seeing MLB’s special on the 1993 season. Did any baseball team in history sport more mullets than that team?

  6. Lefty33 Says:

    His right hamstring blew up in ST in ‘05 and he was never able to fully rehab it before a brief stint in Buffalo.

    Then in his first game back he blew it up again running out a grounder to third off of Carlos Silva in his first AB and pretty much gave up right there.

    To make room for Gonzalez’s 1 AB the Indians released Ryan Ludwick.

    Gonzalez tried as recently as ‘08 to hook on in ST with the Cardinals but his right harmstring plus various other medical issues like abdominal strains and possible hernia issues caused him to be put on the temporary inactive list and after going back home to PR with an open door invitation from La Russa and GM John Mozeliak to come back whenever he wanted to but he never took them up on it that I’m aware of.

  7. Chuck Says:

    “I wanna know what happened there.”

    “promptly imploded via Roid related injuries”

  8. JohnBowen Says:

    Just thought of one – Carlos Delgado, 2005 (Marlins).

  9. John Autin Says:

    Fun subject. But to me, a “rental” is a player whom you know in advance will be moving on by year’s end. In other words, it’s a concept pretty much limited to players in the free agency era.

    For 1B, I nominate Mark Teixeira 2008: .308-33-121, 152 OPS+, 7.3, split between the Braves & Angels.

    I can’t come up with a true high-caliber rental at 2B.

    P.S. I’m partial to Oscar Gamble 1977 for the DH role, with his 162 OPS+.

  10. John Says:

    Welcome back, John!

  11. Mike Felber Says:

    Welcome back? What have I forgotten in my relative dotage? I know John as one of the very most astute & prolific contributors to, now at Extremely detailed & logically astute, overwhelmingly gracious to all comers.

    Did I forget a tenure here? Were you traded for a player to be names later? ;-) Did my appeal over there bring you (back) here? If so, please encourage select others to contribute, such as friends other Johns/Twisto & Frank for the historical angle & again, we could really use you (all) writing whatever the bleep you want to here! Your namesake here will edit, credit, & post your work at .

  12. John Says:

    Oh wait, am I just thinking of HHS/bbref? Welcome, for I guess the first time, John A!

  13. Cameron Says:

    Smooth one, Johnny boy.

  14. Raul Says:

    It’s not like Reggie Jackson was Barry Bonds.

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