The 19 Free Agent Signings That Shocked The Sports World

Alex Rodriguez

If anyone tries to convince you that they knew Cliff Lee would sign with the Philadelphia Phillies a week ago, don’t believe them. This came out of nowhere, and shocked everyone in the baseball world.

But this isn’t the first time the sport fans have been take by surprise by a free agent move.

Franchise players have abandoned their homes, superstars have taken less money to play with their friends, and mediocre players have signed massive deals. 

In the world of sports, you just never know what will happen next. Let us know in the comments if we forgot any.

Reggie Jackson -- New York Yankees, 1976

Five-years, $2.9 million

Perhaps the first true free agent blockbuster deal, George Steinbrenner gave the Jackson baseball's first mega-contract. Despite his pugnacious personality, Jackson went on to become a Yankees' legend and is among the best performers in MLB postseason history.

Jon Koncak -- Atlanta Hawks, 1989

Six-years, $13 million

Koncak was mostly a backup centre, when the Hawks gave him one of the richest contracts in the NBA -- more lucrative than those of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, or Magic Johnson. Koncak, who averaged only 4.5 points per game for his career, was often referred to by the nickname 'Jon Contract' in ensuing years.

Reggie White -- Green Bay Packers, 1993

Four-years, $17 million

The first NFL free agency period ever saw one of the best pass-rushers in league history jump ship from the Philadelphia Eagles to the Packers. Eagles fans thought he would be theirs forever, but White racked up 68.5 sacks for the Packers and helped them win a Super Bowl.

Shaquille O'Neal -- Los Angeles Lakers, 1996

Seven-years, $120 million

Shaq was Orlando's number one overall draft pick, the face of a young franchise, and the man who lead them to the NBA Finals just one year earlier. Then the Lakers opened up their pocket books to snatch him away just as he hit his prime. O'Neal ended up signing a massive deal and one Kobe Bryant-selection later, the Lakers' dynasty had begun.

Roger Clemens -- Toronto Blue Jays, 1996

Four-years, $40 million

Boston elected not to re-sign the 'ageing' Clemens as they believed he was past the prime of his career. Clemens went to the Jays and won back-to-back Cy Young Awards with Toronto. (Plus, two more after playing eight more seasons in the bigs.)

Kevin Garnett -- Minnesota Timberwolves, 1997

Six-years, $126 million

Garnett was just hitting his prime at the time of the deal, but its magnitude shocked the NBA community and cramped Minnesota's ability to add new players to support him. The size of the deal led to increased the tension between players and owners that helped contribute to a lockout the next season.

Mark Messier -- Vancouver Canucks, 1997

Three-years, $21 million

New York Rangers fans were stunned when the captain that led them to their first Stanley Cup Championship in 54 years followed the money to Vancouver. They haven't been back since.

Curtis Martin -- New York Jets, 1998

Six-years, $36 million

Coach Bill Parcells orchestrated a move from New England to division rival New York, then convinced the Patriots running back to follow him, to the outrage of Pats fans. He went on to become the fourth-leading rusher of all time.

Mike Hampton -- Colorado Rockies, 2000

Eight-years, $121 million

Hampton turned in two very strong seasons in Houston, but no one expected the Rockies to give him the richest contract in baseball history (at that time.) The only problem was that it was to play at the worst pitcher's park in baseball, Coors Field. The stadium and a string of injuries crushed Hampton's career.

Alex Rodriguez -- Texas Rangers, 2000

10-years, $252 million

This deal shattered the previous most lucrative contract in sports history and set the standard for painfully onerous contracts. Rodriguez left just four year later, but the Rangers were still paying him when they wen bankrupt in 2010.

Paul Kariya/Teemu Selanne -- Colorado Avalanche, 2003

Kariya: One-year, $1.2 million

Selanne: One-year, $5.8 million

The long-time friends decided to accept huge pay cuts -- the two made less combined than Kariya made the year before -- so that they could join forces and capture a Stanley Cup. The talent-rich Avalanche failed to reach its goal.

Johnny Damon -- New York Yankees, 2005

Four-years, $52 million

Damon's deal isn't the biggest on this list, but he stunned Red Sox fans by signing with the hated Yankees, just a year after beating them in ALCS. Damon had been the face of the beloved team that ended Boston's 89-year title drought, but followed the money to New York.

Scott Gomez/Chris Drury -- New York Rangers, 2007

Gomez: Seven-years, $51.5 million

Drury: Five-years, $35.25 million

The free-spending Rangers were expected to land one of the two marquee centres on the free agent market, but no one expected them to land both on the same night. Neither player panned out on Broadway.

Marian Hossa -- Detroit Red Wings, 2008

One-year, $7.45 million

Hossa had plenty of suitors willing to give him long-term deals, but he was convinced that he could win a Stanley Cup in Detroit, where the Red Wings had just beaten his former team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, for the championship the year before. Unfortunately for Hossa, things changed in 2007 and it was the Penguins that beat the Red Wings for the Cup that year.

Mark Teixeira -- New York Yankees, 2009

Eight-years, $180 million

It was pretty well known around baseball that the Yankees were going to acquire C.C. Sabathia. Then they added who was supposed to be a star No. 2 pitcher in AJ Burnett. But the Yankees shocked the baseball world when they swooped in to steal Teixeira, putting together arguably the three biggest fish of the 2008 free agent pool.

Brett Favre -- Minnesota Vikings, 2009

Two-years, $25 million

Bitter about being pushed out in Green Bay after 15 years, Favre decided to play for the Packers' hated rivals. His first season in Minnesota was a tremendous success. This year, not so much.

LeBron James -- Miami Heat, July 2010

Six-years, $110.1 million

Many pundits assumed that Chris Bosh would join Dwyane Wade in Miami or wherever Wade chose to go. But few expected James to join them until the week before he signed -- or rub Cleveland's face in it with a one-hour televised special announcing the decision.

Jayson Werth -- Washington Nationals, 2010

Seven-years, $126 million

An overlooked slugger in a rich free agent class, the Nationals forked over what may have been $30 million more than any other team was offering to secure Werth, and the outfielder gladly accepted.

Cliff Lee -- Philadelphia Phillies, 2010

Five-years, $120 million

Lee spurned bigger offers from the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies who flew under-the-radar until the last moment.

GMs can get into trouble when they settle for their second choices...

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