Feb gems: Signing late can turn out great

Over the years, some key additions have been made in February

Feb gems: Signing late can turn out great

With pitchers and catchers to begin reporting to Spring Training in two weeks, most of the offseason's wheeling and dealing has been done.

But since the advent of free agency in 1976, there have been several notable signings made on Feb. 1 or later that paid large dividends for the clubs that made them. Could we see that again in 2017? It's possible with the likes of Matt Wieters, Chris Carter, Mike Napoli, Chase Utley and Jason Hammel still out there for the taking.

With that in mind, here's a ranking of the 10 best free-agent signings made after the start of February, taking into account regular season and postseason performance, as well as length of service with the club.

10. Rangers sign Ian Desmond on Feb. 29, 2016
Desmond declined a qualifying offer from the Nationals, for whom he played shortstop the previous seven seasons. But with the prospect of losing a first-round pick in the Draft for signing him, clubs shied away and Desmond found himself unemployed into late February.

The Rangers signed the 30-year-old to a one-year, $8 million deal and he began the season as their left fielder. He eventually moved to center and was defensively adequate while hitting .285/.335/.446 with 22 home runs.

Statcast: Desmond's long homer

Desmond was selected as an All-Star for the second time, helping Texas win the American League West.

9. Nationals sign Adam Dunn on Feb. 11, 2009
The Nationals signed a 28-year-old Dunn to a two-year, $20 million deal, reuniting him with general manager Jim Bowden, who drafted him for the Reds in 1998.

Dunn's walk-off homer

Dunn produced a 142 wRC+, his highest in five seasons, and hit .267/.398/.529 with 38 homers. He followed that up with a .260/.356/.536 line in 2010 with another 38 jacks.

8. Pirates sign Rick Reuschel on Feb. 28, 1985
Though he is most remembered for his time with the Cubs and Giants, Reuschel had a spectacular 1985 season for the Pirates. Pittsburgh signed the 35-year-old right-hander to a Minor League deal, and he wound up winning the National League Comeback Player of the Year Award.

Rick ReuschelAP

Reuschel finished with a 2.27 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 5.2 fWAR in 31 appearances (26 starts) in 1985, also winning the first of two career Gold Glove Awards.

7. Angels sign Bobby Abreu on Feb. 12, 2009
Abreu was a month shy of his 35th birthday when the Angels signed him to a one-year, $5 million contract. It turned out to be a huge bargain.

Abreu's walk-off homer

The veteran right fielder hit .293/.390/.435 with 15 home runs and 30 steals in 38 attempts in 2009, producing a 120 wRC+. Abreu was named AL Player of the Month in July, batted .380/.467/.550, and also came up big in the AL Division Series against Boston, batting .556 (5-for-9) with two doubles. He was re-signed to a two-year, $19 million deal that offseason.

6. Orioles sign Nelson Cruz on Feb. 24, 2014
Cruz was coming off a 50-game suspension after failing a test for performance-enhancing drugs when Baltimore signed him to a one-year, $8 million deal with incentives just before Spring Training.

Must C: Crushed

The 33-year-old slugger wound up hitting .271/.333/.525 with an MLB-best 40 home runs. In the ALDS against the Tigers, Cruz hit .500 (6-for-12) with two home runs and five RBIs to help the O's reach the AL Championship Series.

5. Red Sox sign J.D. Drew on Feb. 14, 2007
The Red Sox signed Drew to a five-year, $70 million contract with club opt-out clauses for the final two years of the deal in case his shoulder injuries recurred.

Drew's first-inning grand slam

Drew, then 31, hit .270/.373/.423 with 11 home runs, 64 RBIs and a 107 wRC+ in 552 plate appearances in 2007. In the ALCS against Cleveland, Drew hit .360 with a legendary grand slam in Game 6 that helped Boston overcome a 3-1 deficit and advance to the World Series.

In five years with Boston, Drew hit .264/.370/.455 and made the All-Star team in 2008.

4. Cubs sign Dexter Fowler on Feb. 25, 2016
Though he had been rumored to have agreed to a three-year deal with the Orioles, Fowler reunited with the Cubs on a one-year, $8 million deal with a mutual option for a second year.

The move paid off handsomely for Chicago, as Fowler was a key contributor in helping the club win its first World Series championship in 108 years.

Fowler hit .276/.393/.447 with a career-high 129 wRC+, and was 9-for-27 (.333) with three doubles, a home run and four RBIs in the NLCS against the Dodgers. In the World Series, he homered to lead off Game 7, which the Cubs won over the Indians in 10 innings to claim their first title since 1908.

Must C: Fowler's leadoff homer

3. Twins sign Jack Morris on Feb. 5, 1991
Already a four-time All-Star and a World Series winner with the Tigers in 1984, Morris signed a one-year, $3 million deal (plus $700,000 in performance bonuses) with his hometown team after 14 seasons with Detroit.

Morris' 3.43 ERA and 4.1 WAR (per FanGraphs) were his best since 1987, and he earned his first All-Star selection since that season.

Morris throws 10 shutout innings

But it was in the postseason that the 36-year-old right-hander turned in one of the most legendary pitching performances in baseball history. In Game 7 of the World Series against the Braves, Morris outdueled John Smoltz with a 10-inning shutout of Atlanta in a 1-0 Minnesota victory to clinch the title.

Morris gave up three earned runs in 23 innings (1.17 ERA) during that Fall Classic, and was named World Series Most Valuable Player.

2. Dodgers sign Justin Turner on Feb. 6, 2014
The Dodgers signed Turner, then a 29-year-old infielder who had spent the previous three-plus seasons with the Mets, to a Minor League deal with an invitation to Spring Training.

Little did they know what they'd get from Turner, who hit .340/.404/.493 with seven home runs and 43 RBIs in 322 plate appearances in 2014. Turner followed that up with an .861 OPS and 142 wRC+ in 439 plate appearances in '15.

Statcast: Turner's solo homer

In 2016, he posted a .275/.339/.493 line with 27 home runs before signing a four-year, $64 million deal this offseason to stay with the Dodgers.

1. Cubs sign Andre Dawson on March 9, 1987
For $700,000, the Cubs got Dawson, a future Hall of Famer, during Spring Training in 1987. He had already established himself as a star outfielder in Montreal, earning three All-Star selections and six Gold Gloves over the first 11 seasons of his career.

Dawson's 47th dinger

The 32-year-old Dawson proceeded to hit .287/.328/.568 in 1987, with 49 home runs and 137 RBIs en route to winning the NL MVP Award. He would be an All-Star in five of six seasons with Chicago, and won two more Gold Glove Awards in '87 and '88.

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.