25 years ago [yesterday], one of the biggest and best examples of an immediate gratification free agency signing occurred. On Jan. 29, 1988, the Dodgers signed star Tigers outfielder Kirk Gibson. Yeah, this turned out to be a good move. Behind Gibson, the Dodgers would win the 1988 world title—still the last one in franchise history.
Gibson had become a free agent under unusual circumstances. By “unusual circumstances” I mean collusion. In the 1980s, owners conspired to keep salaries down by refusing to bid for free agents. Only if a team didn’t want their veteran player would other franchises make a play on him. Only under extreme circumstances did someone switch teams. Most notably, Andre Dawson was so desperate to leave Montreal’s turf field behind him to save what was left of his knees, that he offered the Cubs a blank check. Name their price, and he’d play for them in 1987.
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