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MLB Free Agency: Outfield Market

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Welcome to the sixth installment of INSC’s MLB Free Agency Positional Breakdown! Today we will be getting to some of the better names on the market, as we look at this year’s crop of free agent outfielders. We will be taking a look at the list of names, what they bring to the table, where they could end up and which teams could be looking for outfield help.

So in order for us to get into any sort of analysis, we are going to need a list of upcoming free agents. It just so happens that mlbtraderumors.com formulates such a list every season. If you would like to access their full list of upcoming free agents, you can take a look right here. From that full list, here are the outfielders who are poised to be free agents at the conclusion of this season’s World Series!

Gregor Blanco (33)
Yoenis Cespedes (31) — can opt out of remaining two years, $47.5MM on current contract
Chris Coghlan (32)
Coco Crisp (37) — $13MM vesting/club option with a $750K buyout
Rajai Davis (36)
Alejandro De Aza (33)
Ian Desmond (31)
Matt Holliday (37) — $17MM club option with $1MM buyout
Craig Gentry (33)
Brandon Moss (33)
Daniel Nava (34)
Angel Pagan (35)
Jimmy Paredes (28)
Ryan Raburn (36)
Colby Rasmus (30)
Michael Saunders (30)
Eric Thames (30)
Michael Bourn (34)
Dexter Fowler (31) — $9MM mutual option with a $5MM buyout
Carlos Gomez (31)
Tyler Holt (28)
Austin Jackson (30)
Jon Jay (32)
Cameron Maybin (30) — $9MM club option with a $1MM buyout
Drew Stubbs (32)
Peter Bourjos (30)
Jose Bautista (36)
Carlos Beltran (39)
Jay Bruce (30) — $13MM club option with a $1MM buyout
Jaff Decker (27)
Franklin Gutierrez (34)
Matt Joyce (32)
Josh Reddick (30)
Seth Smith (34) — $7MM club option with a $250K buyout
Mark Trumbo (31)

Finally, we have some worthwhile names! If you have been with us the last few days, you know almost every infield position is lacking big time this winter. Most positions have one or two (if they are lucky) starter worthy name on their lists. But in the outfield, we have a handful of intriguing names to look at.

The top name on this list is technically not a free agent yet. His name is Yoenis Cespedes, and he needs to opt out of his current deal to hit the market. But considering he would be the top name on the open market thanks to his .280 average, 31 home runs and .530 slugging percentage, that is a sure bet. He is on record saying he would love to finish his career as a Met, but do not think that will mean he is going to give them a hometown discount. The Mets need him more than he needs them, so he has all the leverage. He has a ton of power, and that means plenty of teams will come calling. Teams like the San Francisco Giants, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles are just a few that are likely to give the Mets a run for their money.

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Next on the list is a guy who has even more power than Cespedes. His name is Mark Trumbo, and he was the Major League leader in home runs in 2016, with 47. He slugged .533 while driving in 108 runs for the Baltimore Orioles, in what was his first year for the club. Any team that brings him aboard will be doing so for his power and bat, but defensively he can be put at first base or a corner outfield spot. Now his defense is going to leave something to be desired, and the DH slot is not the worst spot for him to end up. All the teams listed for Cespedes should also be hot on the Trumbo trail as well. Maybe add the Kansas City Royals, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers and maybe even the Texas Rangers to the mix as well.

Speaking of the Texas Rangers, their center fielder is set to be a free agent as well. Ian Desmond was in this spot last winter as well. Last year he was the top shortstop on the market, and surprisingly no one wanted any part of him. That led to him signing late in the offseason with Texas, and he had to switch positions to make it work. But the outcome should pay off nicely for Desmond. His lone season in Texas saw him steal 21 bases and hit 22 home runs, along with a .285 average. He also now has that positional versatility, making him even more attractive than just a standard outfielder. Teams could stick him in center, a corner or back on the infield if they wish. The Giants seem like a nice fit in my opinion. Texas will likely give it a shot to bring him back, while the likes of the Mets, Dodgers, Blue Jays and maybe the Mariners or Angels stepping into the mix.

Then comes the man of many nicknames. Jose Bautista is known for his power. He had  poor season in 2016, but still managed 22 home runs in 116 regular season games. Teams will have to live with a batting average that is going to be a little below average, but if he returns to his 30 plus home run level, that is perfectly fine. The big question for Joey Bats is his age, as he is going to be 36 in the 2017 season. Batman is unlikely to return to the 40 homer level, and his age likely limits the length of his deal. But teams love power, and the likes of the New York Yankees, the Red Sox, Orioles, Rangers and several others could find themselves dabbling. Ok maybe not Texas, since him and Rougned Odor don’t exactly see eye to eye. Toronto is more likely to pursue a deal with Edwin Encarnacion, meaning Bautista’s time in a Jays uniform could very well be over.

Next up on the list is a man who was traded from the Oakland A’s to the Los Angeles Dodgers this season, meaning he could become more appealing than others since he will not have a qualifying offer attached to his name. His name of course, is Josh Reddick. Reddick only hit 10 homers on the season, but that is largely due to the fact that he suffered through a wrist issue for a good portion of the early part of the season. So overall he is coming off a down season, but he should still draw plenty of attention. Power needy teams will likely turn to him after missing out on Cespedes, Trumbo and possibly Bautista (some teams will turn to Reddick before Joey Bats because of the age factor). The likes of the Orioles, Jays, Red Sox and maybe even the White Sox could find themselves in the thick of it. I do not expect the Dodgers to pursue him, as his time in Dodger blue has been relatively underwhelming.

The last big time name comes in the form of a Chicago Cub who has a mutual option. Dexter Fowler’s option is for nine million, and given he can probably get more on the open market, I am expecting him to do just that. And Fowler is not like most of this year’s outfielder market (power hitting corner guys), meaning his competition is not as bad. He is a center fielder who has a nice glove and can get on base at a decent clip. He will likely be a fallback option for the teams who miss on Desmond. The Cubs have plenty of young talent and do not need to bring him back necessarily, but likely will at least make the effort. The Mets could become an interesting option for him. They could go in so many different directions with their outfield, but given their current crew lacks a starting center fielder, Fowler could fit nicely. The Giants, Rangers are two other clubs to keep an eye on.

Now that we have covered the core of the market, let’s just take a quick run through some of the other names out there. Rajai Davis had a decent season in 2016, and even at his age is worth a shorter deal to help fill out an outfield, ideally as a fourth. Matt Holliday needs to find himself an American League club so he can DH, as his production relies heavily on his health, which breaks down quickly when he is in the field. Angel Pagan falls in a very similar category as Davis, as he could start, but ideally makes a nice fourth outfielder that fills in a few games a week. Michael Saunders and Colby Rasmus find themselves in similar spots, as younger guys who can hit home runs, even if their average is not ideal. Carlos Gomez is a total wild card, as he could be the All Star from the Milwaukee days, or the guy who cannot hit the side of a barn from most of this season.

Then there is the curious case of Jay Bruce. The Mets have a 13 million dollar option on Bruce, and he is a 30 home run type of guy. But if the team brings back Cespedes, they would have him, Bruce, Granderson and Conforto. No real center fielder in that mix, and the outfield defense will lose a handful of games. So if the team wants to bring back Cespedes, and know they can pull it off, then Bruce honestly should go. The team could then dangle Granderson in a deal for a true center fielder. And if they doubt their ability to bring Cespedes back, having Bruce to replace him helps in the power department. But the team still likely needs to move Grandy for a center fielder. So bottom line is, the Mets are in a  tricky situation, and the decision on Bruce could go many ways. If he enters the market, he likely finds himself in direct competition with Reddick, as both have similar profiles.

As far as teams who could sign outfielders, almost any team could use an outfielder. Given you can play three, a team can work around an abundance. I probably mentioned about half the league throughout this piece, and each team has their own situation in regards to which type of outfielder they want.

Be sure to check back tomorrow when we go over the designated hitter market! If you have not already, check out the Positional Breakdown Series Preview page to see what date we will look at each position, with links available upon the release of those articles. You can check that page out right here.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]