2) Robin Ventura
Next up on the list, we have a guy who helped the Mets get back to the playoffs after ten years away and in back-to-back seasons in Robin Ventura.
Ventura had just finished up his tenth year with the Chicago White Sox and a bounce-back season after only playing 54 games in his second to last year there. He was going to be 31 the upcoming season, coming off a gold glove winning season, and a career .274 hitter so it was clear the impact he could potentially have on a team.
On December 1st, 1998, Ventura signed a 3-year $23M deal with the New York Mets. In the first of the three years, Ventura was paid $7M while in the second and third year he was paid $8M.
Ventura got off to a scorching start with the Mets. In his first year in the orange and blue, he played in all but one game and slashed .301/.379/.529/.908, with 32 home runs, 120 RBI, while winning a gold glove and finishing 6th in MVP award voting.
Although Ventura’s next two years were not at the same level as his first, he was still a solid player. His batting average took a hit as he only hit in the .230s the next two years, but he did still combine for 45 home runs, 145 RBI, while playing a defensively sound third base. In his three years, he combined for an 11.0 WAR.
Ventura was a huge addition to the Mets as he helped them reach the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in the franchise’s history. In his first season with the Mets in 1999, the Mets made it to the NLCS, but fell short in six games. The following season they made it to the World Series and were also eliminated, in five games. Although the Mets were unable to finish the season as the top dog, Ventura was a huge reason why they were able to come close.
Between Venturas lockdown defense, his solid production at the plate, and him helping the Mets make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, his 3-year $23M deal is easily one of the best December signings the Mets have ever made.