- Jim Bowden, ESPN Insider
Let's be honest, the top two position players in last year’s free-agent class were complete disasters.
Outfielder B.J. Upton has reciprocated his five-year, $72.5 million deal with the Atlanta Braves by posting a .183 AVG/.265 OBP/.294 OPS slash line (through Aug. 22). The meager production at least makes him a candidate for NL Comeback Player of the Year in 2014. The Braves certainly hope he will step it up over the next six weeks as they approach the postseason, particularly in the wake of Jason Heyward’s injury (fractured jaw) Wednesday.
Then there's Josh Hamilton, who signed a five-year, $133 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels. He, too, fell flat on his face this season, posting a .229/.286/.418 slash line. Unlike Upton’s Braves, the Angels won’t sniff the postseason, but their season -- and Hamilton’s -- will come to a merciful end.
The top free-agent pitchers, however, did perform up to expectations, led by Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke (six years, $159 million) and the Detroit Tigers’ Anibal Sanchez (five years, $88 million).
But which players are paying huge dividends for a fraction of the cost paid to Upton, Hamilton, Greinke and Sanchez? Here's a list of six players who have produced far beyond their contracts and have been the best free-agent bargains of the 2013 season (so far).
1. Francisco Liriano | LHP | Pittsburgh Pirates | GM: Neal Huntington