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Thursday, November 07, 2013

A glance at the free-agent outfielders

On Monday, we listed the top starting pitchers that are on the open market this winter, which is going to be a key area seeing as the Giants have two rotation spots to fill. Although their need in the outfield isn't quite as drastic, it's an area that must be upgraded if they're serious about making another run in 2014.

Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans are aware of this though. They themselves have stated they'd like to upgrade the outfield, at least in the form of a right-handed hitting left-fielder to at least platoon with Gregor Blanco. Ideally, they can bring in someone well-rounded enough to allow Blanco to be the fourth outfielder. Last season, rolling with Blanco and Torres in left field did not work out well at all and it really shouldn't have surprised anyone. The problem is, there just aren't a lot of outfield options that pose obvious upgrades outside of the top-five free agents. Of course, those guys likely are out of the Giants' price range. They may be better off trading for an outfielder like they did with Pagan and Cabrera in 2011, despite their bare minor league system. Regardless, below are the top outfield options on this years market, a less than inspiring list that nose-dives after the top-five:

1) Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston: He would be a good fit for any team looking to win, but he's the top outfielder on the market and will command upwards of $120M. With two starting pitchers also needed, that puts him well out of the Giants' range.

2) Curtis Granderson, New York: Grandy is interesting because he's got intriguing left-handed power. He's coming off a down year, so he'll be on a slight discount. He's also a very good outfielder and no slouch on the base-paths. I'd have no qualms if the Giants pursued him, mainly cause he's one of the few legit power bats on the market. Though I don't think they can afford to give him the $80M+ he'll likely get and lose their 14th overall draft pick in the process.

3) Shin Soo-Choo, Cincinnati: The multi-talented outfielder isn't a star, but he's a very solid player. He may get $100M+ and even though he's a very good player, I don't think he's worth it. I take Pence over him, just to give you an idea where he would have graded out on the open market.

4) Nelson Cruz, Texas: Cruz obviously comes with some baggage do to his recent suspension and ties with PED's. However, put that aside and you have the most explosive right-handed outfielder on the market. I don't think the Giants will get involved, both because his PED history as well as the price tag being too big, but you can't help but think of what a perfect fit he would be in left field and hitting fifth behind Pence and Posey.

5) Carlos Beltran, St. Louis: He too would be a great fit on a one, maybe two-year deal, but he's had his run in San Francisco and is highly unlikely to return. That being said, take away that 2011 trade and he would have made too much sense for the Giants not to pursue, especially since he will take a short-term deal.

6) Marlon Byrd, Pittsburgh: Talk about a significant fall-off after the top-5! Byrd too has some ties to PED use and is coming off a career year at age 35 which makes you wonder. However, on a short-term, reasonable deal, he may be just the right-handed guy the Giants will be looking at this winter. His .291/24/88 line likely won't be repeated, but he's a viable candidate to hit 15-20 jacks, bat around .280 while playing solid defense as a full-timer. On a 2 year deal in the $8-10M/year range, he may not be a bad option, but you better do your homework to make sure this guy is clean and be certain he'll avoid suspension on your watch.

7) Corey Hart, Milwaukee: Talk about a roll-of-the-dice. Hart will almost certainly sign a one-year, make well deal after missing all of 2013, and he may not even be able to play the outfield everyday at this point. However, if the Giants think he can handle some left, and maybe some first base, they may take a long look at him seeing as his right-handed bat would play well in their park.

8) Chris Young, Oakland: Young struggled mightily this past season in Oakland, to the tune of a .204 average and .659 OPS while also seeing his defense take a bit of a hit. Hitting for average has never been his strong suit, (.246 career before his disastrous '13), but I can only see him improving next year. He's just 30 years old and still very much in his prime. He may be worth a look seeing as he'll likely be pretty cheap and comes with the potential to hit 20+ jacks, steal 25+ bases and play gold-glove caliber defense in the outfield, even if it comes with a .250'ish average. If not, he's a more than capable 4th outfielder.

9) Michael Morse, Baltimore: Morse is another guy, like Young, I could see the Giants entertaining on the cheap. They could take a look at his first two months of last season when he was getting regular playing time (.258, 11 HR, 21 RBI in April and May) and then at the previous 3 seasons in which he put up above-average numbers and think last seasons fall-off was an aberration and injury-related.

10) Jason Kubel, Arizona: Like Young and Morse had a forgettable 2013 campaign and will be looking to sign a make-good short-term deal. He did, after all, go 30/90 for Arizona just one season ago. Ideally, I wouldn't mind taking both Kubel and Young, and letting them platoon in left while letting Blanco be the fifth outfielder. At least one of them is bound to return to form, and my guess is both improve drastically on last seasons misfortunes. It might make sense for the Giants to bring in two guys coming off bad years on the cheap, like Morse and Kubel, or Young and Kubel, in hopes that one regains form. It's either that, spring for one of the top-5 names or trade for somebody even though the farm system is extremely thin at the moment.

Best of the Rest: Nate McLouth, Baltimore; David Murphy, Texas; Delmon Young, Tampa Bay; Tyler Colvin, Colorado, Kelly Johnson, Tampa Bay
The Giants Baseball Blog


  • At 12:59 PM, Anonymous Jason Billingsley said…

    Wow, talk about WEAK outfield free agents. After Cruz and Beltran, none of these guys excite me at all. Who might be available to trade for? Anyone know?

  • At 11:21 PM, Anonymous hitnrun said…

    Any kind of platoon that includes Blanco is idiotic. He should be a fourth or fifth defensive guy only and Sabean has got to be the only GM in MLB still considering him after last year. I would rather see the Giants take a flyer on Byrd and put him out in left permanently than to watch another mix/match platoon that never works. I also would rather see the Giants spend heavier toward a top tier outfielder like Grandy or Choo and quit trying to put a band aid on the bullet hole in left field. It is fine to focus on good starting pitching, but you have to score runs to actually win ball games.


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