While the Los Angeles Angels and Miami Marlins went on free-agent spending sprees last winter, other clubs were making under-the-radar acquisitions.
Here are Major League Baseball's best bargains of 2012:
Mike Trout, Angels
Trout wasn't an offseason acquisition, but the rookie center fielder has posted an MVP-caliber season for the Angels. Los Angeles struggled out of the gate in 2012 and had a record of just 9-15 prior to Trout's promotion from the minor leagues. The Angels are 72-53 with Trout in the starting lineup. Trout currently leads the American League in runs, stolen bases, and highlight-reel catches. The Angels are surely getting baseball's best bargain by paying Trout the major-league minimum this season.
Norichika Aoki, Brewers
The Brewers have been one of baseball's hottest teams since early August. One of the reasons for Milwaukee's resurgence has been the productivity of outfielder Norichika Aoki. The Japanese import signed a two-year, $2.5 million free-agent deal with the Brewers in the offseason. After starting the season on the bench, Aoki has emerged as Milwaukee's sparkplug at the top of the lineup. He's currently hitting .293 with 27 stolen bases and a .800 OPS.
Ryan Ludwick, Reds
Ryan Ludwick is another National League Central outfielder who has outperformed his contract. Cincinnati signed the 33-year-old veteran to a one-year, $2.5 million contract last winter. Ludwick has posted a career season for the division-leading Reds, slamming 26 home runs, knocking in 80, and posting a .880 OPS.
Fernando Rodney, Rays
Rodney signed a one-year contract with Tampa after posting two subpar seasons with the Angels. The former setup man was installed as the Rays' closer. Rodney has recorded a career-high 43 saves with a miniscule 0.66 ERA and equally impressive 0.77 WHIP. The Rays are paying Rodney $1.75 million in 2012 and hold a $2.5 million option for 2013.
Wei Yin Chen, Orioles
The Orioles have been the biggest surprise in baseball this season. The performance of Chen may be the Orioles' biggest surprise. Baltimore signed the 27-year-old lefty after four seasons in the Japanese Central League. Chen has emerged as the Orioles' most reliable starter, posting 12 wins and 3.98 ERA. Chen signed a three-year contract worth $11.09 million that will keep him in Charm City through 2014.
*Information gathered from http://www.baseball-reference.com.