Previewing the 2012 Free Agent Oufield Market

Aaron Rowand‘s gone for good, and the Giants will lose several outfielders — Carlos Beltran, Cody Ross, Pat Burrell — to free agency. Nate Schierholtz will be back, in with a breakout season, could potentially see regular playing time in the outfield. In addition, the Giants will presumably tender Andres Torres a contract, though it remains to be seen what role he’ll play next season.

Anyway, the Giants will be in the market for outfielders; if they envision Nate Schierholtz as the starting right fielder, and Brandon Belt as the starting left fielder, the big void is in centerfield — where the market is very thin. A brief preview of the 2012 free agent outfield market:

Re-Signs

Cody Ross: He made $6.3MM in his final year of arbitration, and has had a somewhat disappointing season — .238/.327/.399; that said, his numbers (thanks to a very-high walk rate) are bascially in line with his career norms, and he’s posted the best BB/K of his career (0.53). He averaged roughly 2.5 WAR/season from 2007-2010, and I imagine he’ll be looking for a starting role (which he deserves). The thing that makes Ross special is that he can play centerfield — and an average hitter in center is of value. Given his versatility in the outfield, and the fact that he’s solid at the plate, Ross represents one of the best available outfield options for the Giants.

Carlos Beltran: Easily the top outfield bat on the market. It’d be nice to retain Beltran, as he solidifies the middle of the Giants’ lineup. He’s the cream of the crop though, and could command a whole lot of money. If I had to guess, I bet he’ll end up elsewhere.

The Athletics

David DeJesus: initially suggested by Zack in the September roundtable, DeJesus could provide decent value at an affordable price. Here’s what Zack had to say:

I’d love to see them make a cheap offer to David DeJesus. He’s putting the worst offensive numbers of his career, but he hasn’t been nearly as bad Oakland fans tend to think. He has the ability to take a walk, and unlike other “sluggers” on the market (Jason Kubel, Josh Willingham, etc.), he still rates well defensively. I’m inclined to give DeJesus the benefit of the doubt because 1) he may still be recovering from an injury, 2) half of his games are in Oakland, and 3) his playing time has been iffy due to the managerial situation. And while he’s not exactly young, it’s not like it would be a long-term deal. One or two years would be great.

Coco Crisp: Another Oakland A’s outfielder, Crisp is an intriguing option for a number of reasons: he can still play centerfield, and despite the fact that he’ll be entering his age-32 season, he still flashes speed on the basepaths — in fact, his 40 steals in 2011 represent a career-high, and he’s stolen 72 bases in all since 2010, at an 86% success rate. Over his career, he’s pretty much been an average hitter (.276/.331/.407, 99 wRC+), but he’s been especially solid at the plate over the past two seasons (114 wRC+).

Josh Willingham: a very nice bat (career OPS+ of 121), but he’ll be 33 years old and his defensive limitations mostly restrict him to left field. Given that the Giants will probably enter 2012 with Brandon Belt as the regular left-fielder, Willingham doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense.

The Other Centerfielders

Rick Ankiel: Wrong side of 30 and a below-average hitter, but he’s also posted +17 DRS (defensive runs saved) in centerfield this year.

Nate McClouth: He’ll be four years removed from his all-star season, and he really hasn’t impressed of late. Over the last two seasons (609 PA), he’s posted a .650 OPS. He can play passable defense in centerfield, but he’s not a particularly good defender.

Some other CF names: Willie Bloomquist, Corey Patterson, Scott Hairston

Some Right-Field Names: Michael Cuddyer, J.D. Drew, Lance Berkman, Jason Kubel, Ryan Ludwick, Kosuke Fukudome

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6 thoughts on “Previewing the 2012 Free Agent Oufield Market

  1. There is always the chance they bring up Gary Brown sooner then expected. I assumed he is their long-term plan in center, and if they start bringing him up the ranks quicker, they could get by with a temporary centerfielder until he is ready.

  2. Beltran is aloof, but he can hit. Hard to determine his enjoyment of the Gigantes. He DOES need to go to Left field though. Nate has 4-5 steps on him. If his ego, and more likely Boras contract demands, edge him out, too bad. But a 2 year deal would be awesome. Some team will give him 3-4 years, and hopefully that is too rich for Sabean’s blood.

    Dejesus has good D but not much arm. Although Sabean tried to trade for him before he got hurt, he just doesn’t seem a good fit – he’s too patient for one. He makes the same amount basically as Cody Ross. They are similar players, except Ross can pop one out, and has a better arm. Given the choice I’d take Cody. He hasn’t been able to go on a hot streak, but the walks are nice.

    Torres is still completely worth the money, and the chance (slight as it is) that he’ll rebound back to 2010. Speed, defense and switch hitting makes it a slam dunk, except maybe the brain trust is down on him, and his low batting average. As a 4th OF he’s still worth it. I think they’ll do one of the two of Ross/Torres.

    But like you spelled out – the problem is if you have Nate in right and Belt in left you’ll need a CF in a weak market. Coco Crisp has always had potential, but he’s fragile. He’ll get more money than Ross or DeJesus.

    What are the chances Cleveland declines Grady Sizemore’s option? He and Kubel are the only 2 FA OF’s under 30.

    I think they’ll make a run at Beltran, hopefully turn away once the years and dollars get too high. Cody is a type B (barely) so arbitration might at least get something if they decide to go elsewhere. A platoon of Cody and Torres isn’t the worst thing that can happen… Ross hasn’t been terrible at leadoff.

  3. I know he hasn’t had a whole lot of success yet, but i like Justin Christian’s at bats, and he plays good D. I think he could be a name to think about too.

  4. Did they forget that Matt Kemp is out there. If he doesn’t sign a arbitration deal with the Dodgers then the Giants can get him and only give up a 1st round draft pick. Forget Ross and torres. Torres strikes out way to much for a lead off hitter and Ross can’t do a sacrafice so save his life. Belt still needs to learn how to hit the inside pitch. So keep Shirholtz and replace the other two.

    • You obviously don’t understand how arbitration works. Kemp has one more year of arbitration eligibility left. If the Dodgers tender him a contract, which is an absolute no-brainer for a guy that is an MVP front-runner, he will go to arbitration or work out a one year deal with them. However, if they do not work out a long-term contract, he can be a free agent after 2012. For the 2011 offseason, alas, Matt Kemp is most definitely not “out there.”

  5. Pingback: Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Italy, Wilson, Howard | Forex News

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