Filling needs on the cheap

Updated: February 3, 2004, 11:22 AM ET
By Jerry Crasnick | ESPN Insider
The Detroit Tigers, who should be elated if they lose fewer than 95 games this season, just invested $40 million in a catcher with more than 1,500 games on his résumé. In a related development, Pudge Rodriguez might have assured himself four years of misery in a blatant grab for the cash.

Ivan Rodriguez
Is it too late for an annulment?

Rodriguez's new contract smacks of short-term, public relations-driven thinking on the part of the Tigers. That's a bad mix for a team in trouble.

But some other big-league clubs were generous this winter for reasons only they can explain. In December, Angels owner Arturo Moreno blew away the field by signing Bartolo Colon for four years and $51 million. Sidney Ponson's three-year, $22.5 million deal with Baltimore was considered extravagant by many. And Seattle was awfully nice to give Scott Spiezio $9 million over three years to play third base, considering he's appeared in 134 games at the position in eight big-league seasons.

More often than not, bargain hunting was in vogue this winter, as teams grappled with debt-to-equity regulations and searched for the next Esteban Loaiza or David Ortiz.

Welcome to the fiscally responsible section of the Insider, where we pay tribute to overlooked, low-cost signings that could pay off for both the player and team in question. Here are several in the under $2 million category that spring to mind:

Jerry Crasnick

ESPN Senior Writer