Even though the MLB offseason is still in its early stages, and big names like Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke are still weighing their options, some free agents have already found new homes. Most notably, B.J. Upton joining the Atlanta Braves.
Dipping into the market to plug holes is often a necessary evil for teams. Since demand for talent is high and the supply is low, the costs tend to rise beyond what front offices would like. It leads to a lot deals that turn out to be busts in the long run.
As baseball fans eagerly await decisions from Hamilton and Greinke, let's take a look at some early signings that should live up to the hype by providing solid value. All contract figures mentioned are courtesy of CBS Sports.
1. B.J. Upton (Atlanta Braves)
The Braves organization isn't one known for giving out mega deals to free agents. Atlanta has been successful thanks to a constantly replenished and effective farm system. Giving Upton $75 million over five years was out of character.
It's a chance they were basically forced to take after Michael Bourn headed to free agency. But it's a good one. Upton is still just 28 and comes off a season in which he hit 28 home runs and swiped 31 bases. That type of versatility fits well for the Braves.
He won't fill the leadoff void that Bourn left, but he will add some more pop to the middle of Atlanta's offense, which struggled to find power when Brian McCann struggled last season. Paired with Jason Heyward, the Braves have the start of a formidable outfield as they search for a left fielder.
2. Mike Napoli (Boston Red Sox)
Napoli wasn't able to match his tremendous 2011 season (1.046 OPS) in 2012, but he still extended his streak of at least 20 home runs to five years. His power was enough to earn him a three-year, $39 million dollar deal from the Red Sox.
Getting to play in Fenway Park for 81 games should really help. He should be able to pepper the Green Monster with line drives–helping him overall stat line–while also getting his homer streak in tact. He has a 1.107 OPS in 19 career games at the park.
Moreover, Boston needed more pop in the middle of its lineup to go along with David Ortiz. Napoli should provide the Red Sox with a nice one-two punch and put them on path to rebound from a forgettable 2012 season.
3. Dan Haren (Washington Nationals)
The Nationals decided to take a chance on Haren, who's coming off the worst season of his career. He posted a 4.33 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 30 starts for the Los Angeles Angels. It was the perfect time to give him a one-year, prove-it deal.
One concern raised about Haren was a drop in velocity, but it shouldn't be a major concern because the right-hander has never been a power pitcher to begin with. He relies on movement and variation to keep hitters off balance.
Joining a rotation that already features Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann should take most of the pressure off his shoulders. It gives the Nationals one of the league's best rotations and Haren will be a big part of it.