With Tuesday being Marian Hossa’s 37th birthday, I asked a fairly open-ended question on Twitter that jump started a fun topic:
— Tab Bamford (@The1Tab) January 12, 2016
One of the first responses I received elevated the conversation:
@The1Tab forget Hawks history which FA signings in this city have ever gone better?
— Nick Shepkowski (@Shep670) January 12, 2016
The responses varied, predictably, based on people’s personal favorite team. Some wanted to jump the gun on some younger, current players (Artemi Panarin, Jose Abreu) but we simply haven’t seen enough of a body of work from either to classify them as the best free agent signing in Chicago history?
Some guys who didn’t make my list:
Julius Peppers (Bears), Alfonso Soriano (Cubs), AJ Pierzynski (White Sox), Bo Jackson (White Sox) and Ron Harper (Bulls). Someday, we might feel the need to add Jason Heyward or Jon Lester to this list
Here’s my personal top 5 free agent signings in the history of Chicago’s big 5 teams (Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs, Sox).
1. Marian Hossa, Blackhawks
He’s been one of the centerpieces of a modern NHL dynasty in Chicago. Has he been the dynamic offensive threat he was early in his career? Not always. But he is still one of the premiere defensive forwards in the game and, while skating with Jonathan Toews, gives the Blackhawks one of the hardest lines to skate against in the game.
2. Carlton Fisk, White Sox
The Hall of Famer signed with the White Sox – leaving the Red Sox – on March 18, 1981 and was the face of the franchise until he was granted his release and retired on June 28, 1993. In 13 years on the South Side, Fisk hit 214 home runs and drove in 762 while becoming a favorite of almost everyone who paid for a seat at Comiskey. He went into the Hall with a Red Sox hat on his plaque, but played more games representing Chicago than Boston. He was an All-Star four times for the White Sox.
3. Andre Dawson, Cubs
Another Hall of Famer who came to Chicago after a decade in another uniform, Dawson infamously battled collusion before the 1987 season and signed with the Cubs for a fraction of his value. That year, he led the National League with 49 home runs and 137 runs batted in and became the first player on a last place team to win the MVP Award. In six years with the Cubs, Dawson hit 174 home runs and drove in 587 and was a terrific defensive outfielder as well.
4. Jermaine Dye, White Sox
Dye is nowhere close to the career resumes of the three Hall of Fame players ahead of him on my list, but he played the five best – and final – years of his career for the Sox and left a historic mark on the franchise. After driving in 86 runs and hitting 31 homers during the 2005 regular season, he led the unforgettable postseason the culminated with a World Series championship – and Dye was named the World Series MVP. Over his five seasons on the South Side, Dye was named to one All-Star Game and hit 164 home runs with 461 runs batted in; his regular season peak was in 2006, when he hit 44 bombs and drove in 120.
5. John Paxson, Bulls
Paxson was the first player signed by Jerry Krause in 1985 and he went on to play nine years for the Bulls. While in Chicago as a player, he won three championships (1991-93 threepeat) and he averaged 11.4 points and 5.5 assists per game as a Bull. His transition into the front office, where he remains today, makes his tenure with the organization one of the longest in franchise history.