'Hendu' ranks as A's best free-agent addition

Dave Henderson helped Oakland to 3 straight World Series upon signing

'Hendu' ranks as A's best free-agent addition

Before bidding adieu to the Hot Stove season, we asked our 30 beat reporters to look back at their club's past and answer the following question: Who is the best free-agent signing in the team's history?

We narrowed the choices with the following parameters: The signings had to be multiyear contracts, to exclude fluky one-year deals and to focus on players who got real commitments. And contract extensions don't count. Only instances when every team in the Majors had a chance to bid on the player were allowed, including international free agents who received Major League contracts.

OAKLAND -- Dave Henderson may have cemented his place in baseball lore with the Red Sox, for whom he homered off the bench to change the course of the 1986 postseason, but it was in Oakland where he enjoyed his best seasons, after the A's reeled him in as a free agent ahead of the 1988 season.

The signing wasn't splashy -- those are rare in Oakland -- but it marked the beginning of a profound relationship that fans of the green and gold relished so greatly.

Henderson immediately became a beloved figure in Oakland. The effervescent outfielder, who connected to the community in a unique way, also happened to be a central figure with squads that made three consecutive World Series appearances from 1988-90.

Henderson's best season came in '88, his first with the A's, when he hit 24 home runs and set career highs in RBIs (94), batting average (.304) and OPS (.887). The performance was one of the season's biggest surprises and earned him consideration in the American League MVP discussion. Henderson finished 13th in voting, with the award going to teammate Jose Canseco.

Back in center field for the 1989 season, Henderson and Co. returned to the World Series to face the Giants and swept them in four games. Henderson went 4-for-13 in the Series, with half of his hits resulting in home runs.

Henderson re-signed with the A's in December 1990 on a three-year contract worth slightly less than $8 million, and it was during the ensuing season he enjoyed his lone All-Star appearance, finishing the 1991 campaign with a career-best 25 home runs.

After departing Oakland in 1993, Henderson played one more season in the Majors, appearing in 56 games with the Royals in 1994 to cap a 14-year career.

Henderson was unexpectedly taken by a massive heart attack at the age of 57 in December 2015, with the A's releasing a statement that read, "Henderson was an instrumental part of the A's 1989 World Series Championship club and an even more impactful member of the A's family and community."

Honorable mention
Frank Thomas joined the A's on a one-year pact ahead of the 2006 season, totaling 39 home runs and 114 RBIs to help the club into the AL Championship Series. The A's were swept by the Tigers in the series, but Thomas' regular-season performance earned him a fourth-place finish in AL MVP voting.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.