With a down economy and a shallow free agent market, plenty of established veterans were expected to sign short-term contracts at lower than normal prices this offseason.
Of course, no one told the New York Yankees, who gave Mark Teixeira $180 million, CC Sabathia $161 million, and A.J. Burnett $82.5 million contracts.
While Teixeira has been raking and Sabathia has been dominating, plenty of other teams found more cost-efficient ways to sign very productive players.
Raul Ibanez (Philadelphia, $7.2 million)
If the season ended today, would Raul Ibanez win the National League MVP? After two more home runs last night, Ibanez now has 19 homers (second in the NL), 51 RBI (first), and a .340 average (fifth). He actually fares better in all three Triple Crown categories than Albert Pujols.
For a third of the cost of Teixeira, Ibanez has been the Phillies' most consistent and productive hitter. The 37-year-old slugger signed a three-year deal before the season.
Adam Dunn (Washington, $8 million)
He's on pace for another 40-homer season (51 in fact), and he's batting 20 points higher than his career average. Dunn's all-or-nothing hitting approach and defensive ineptitude may have given him the reputation as a risky signing. But his numbers don't lie.
Dunn is as consistent a slugger as they come, with over 40 home runs and 100 walks in each of the past five seasons. His career .382 OBP should lessen the importance of his high strikeout rate.
Dunn has 16 home runs, 42 RBI, and 40 walks in 51 games this season. He is signed through next year.
Orlando Hudson (Los Angeles Dodgers, $3.4 million)
Hudson was on fire with Arizona last year until injuring his wrist, causing him to miss the final two months. The "O-Dawg" has kept it rolling this year, ranking second in the NL in hits (71) while on pace for career highs in batting average (.329) and on-base percentage (.410).
Hudson has been batting third for the Dodgers since Manny Ramirez's suspension, enjoying a .357 average with runners on base. His 32 RBI is third best on the team, on pace for yet another career high.
Hudson is normally known for Gold Glove-winning defense, but he's has found his stroke as of late while providing veteran leadership to a young lineup. Hudson will be a free agent at season's end.
Bobby Abreu (Los Angeles Angels, $5 million)
He's only hit one home run, but Bobby Abreu has been a godsend for the Angels. An early injury to Vladimir Guerrero and ineffective hitting from Howie Kendrick have forced Abreu to be more than a supporting player. Hitting third most of the season, Abreu has flourished in the Angels' "small ball" offensive approach. He's on pace for 51 stolen bases this year.
With Torii Hunter on fire and Vlad back in the lineup, there's less pressure on Abreu to hit for power. Expect more of the same the rest of the season, meaning a .390 OBP, over 40 steals, and around 100 runs. Abreu was signed to a one-year deal.
Carl Pavano (Cleveland, $1.5 million)
That's right, Carl Pavano. Pavano was solid in May for the Indians, going 5-1 while beating the Tigers, Red Sox, and Rays (and nearly beat the Yankees before the bullpen blew the save). Besides Cliff Lee, the Indians have been desperate for consistent starting pitching, and it appears Pavano might be the guy.
It was a classic low-risk, high-reward situation for the fallen pitcher, but so far it seems to be paying off. His five wins currently matches CC Sabathia's total. Pavano will be a free agent at season's end.