MLB free agency is a risky business in which veteran players—most of them beyond their physical primes—fight for the biggest payday possible.
Yet during the past five years, every team has completed at least one successful signing by finding a legitimate bargain through this process. Yes, free agents occasionally do enough to justify their bloated salaries through sheer production or by satisfying a glaring roster deficiency.
We considered all transactions that were completed from the beginning of the 2008-2009 offseason through end of 2013 regular season.
As FanGraphs' Dave Cameron admits, "there’s never going to be one way to estimate the market price of a win."
Although his site's calculations—which compare free-agent contract figures to the Wins Above Replacement that those players are expected to provide—aren't fool-proof, they give us some context as we try to determine whether a player is being overpaid, exploited or receiving appropriate compensation. That's why they've been included beneath the actual deals on each slide.
The following free-agent moves prove that minor league deals, record-breaking agreements and everything in between can work out well from the club's perspective.