They could have Nolan Reimold as the everyday left fielder, but his glove and defense could be upgraded. Luke Scott is a part time fielder that is coming off a serious injury, and he could be non-tendered. Matt Angle and Kyle Hudson are fourth outfielder type ball players. Overall, the group in left field is not locked and in limited supply could be upgraded.
The outfield class this winter is a bare situation, which means most of the movement will be on the trade front. You will not find any star power on opening day, but a few guys could be “buy low” to platoon or improve the defense at the position above the current roster considerations.
Salary Command: IFA from Cuba could sign a deal similar to the one Aroldis Chapman received a few seasons ago.
Hypothetical Deal: 6 yrs; $35-$40 million dollars
Lost Compensation: None
Plus: The YouTube wonder has hit the stage and made everyone drool watching him and his abundance of tools. He has shown power production and in limited international exposure the ability to become a five tool player. He shows tremendous bat speed and is highly athletic, enough so that some feel safely about sticking him in center field. He is just entering his prime and might need a short time adjusting to a major league program. He has vast upside that can be had without committing the $100 million dollars that would come normally. He would be locked into service time until he is 32 years old and you will get the best years out of him for very cheap. As much as I hate throwing out comps, I see a bit of Vladimir Guerrero type athletic ability in Cespedes.
Minus: The Vlad comparisons are tied to workouts, and trust me all athletic guys look good in shorts and t-shirts. He is limited in international exposure and his Cuban league is no longer considered as prosper with legitimate talent across the landscape as it was in the recent pasts. He is the total risk/reward type free agent. The tools show up on the tape, but does he handle pitch recognition? Will the pitchers who throw upper 90s fastballs with ball on string change ups keep him from enough contact to reach the power potential? He could end up being a Juan Rivera type player, just as much as the superstar that showed up for 20 minutes of edited video.
Salary Command: Deal might not be long, but still over $10 million dollars per year
Hypothetical Deal: 3 years; $40-45 million
Lost Compensation: None (Contract voided Giants from offering arbitration)
Plus: He is no longer the fielder that he was in his days with the Royals and the early part of the Mets big contract, but still shows enough to profile as a replacement level corner outfielder defensively. You can save the knees by giving him a DH role from time to time, in turn improving his overall production for the season. He should still be a productive bat with at least a ~3.0 WAR per year over the next three seasons, making him comparable to an above average regular for either corner outfield position. He would fit nicely in the three hole and allow Nick Markakis to move into his more natural role of a number two hitter. He will require nothing in return for signing him, which is a huge factor that increases his attraction to teams that do not want to give up a high draft pick.
Minus: This guy used to be a gazelle in center field and a highly regarded athlete with the skills to run with the best of them. His range has taken a huge hit after the injuries and age creeping up on him. If stuck in the field over 162 games, he could be a liability on the field that could wear down as the long season continues through the hot summer months. He is not a base clogger, but it’s no longer a guarantee that a slap single will move him 60 yards from 1st to 3rd. It is likely that he will spend 50% of his time at DH and his role might overlap with Nolan Reimold’s too much.
Posting Fee: Yet to be determined due to the lack of known demand; likely in very low 8 figures though.
Salary Command: He will see an entry level deal similar to an average everyday centerfielder, minus the open market power.
Hypothetical Deal: 4 years; $18-22 million
Plus: He shows speed that plays well, with good range that could play in center field. He’s a polished contact hitter that shows a similar approach to Ichiro, but has a bit more control in his weight transfer that goes more towards the mound rather than Ichiro’s drag towards first base. This slightly different approach allows him to get more pop out of the stick and gives him gap power potential. He displays excellent plate coverage and routinely will take a ball in the opposite direction. He’s a sound hitter with runners on the base, and has little wasted outs with contact. Very good in all the small ball offensive categories.
Minus: His bat speed is not on the same level as Ichiro. His pitch recognition and pure contact ability is not on the same plane as the person he is always compared with as well. While he walks a good deal, he is a free swinger that sometimes fails to control the strike zone. Some feel that he is better suited as a fourth outfielder over an everyday type because his arm is below average and his production would not be high enough to justify as a corner outfielder. International scouts are more on the fence and see him as a slap hitter on the MLB level. One called him a free swinging Juan Pierre with a drop in speed and no arm.
Other potential Candidates:
Grady Sizemore: What would his career be without the constant injury bug shaking him for what seems every season? He was once an agile centerfield player that was on the short list of guys that teams would want to build around. His knees have zapped the athletic abilities in the field and his range is better suited in left field because his arm would be teetering on average in right. There is still a great deal of doubt that he can maintain his health as well as reach his previous form as a hitter. He might want to take the one year deal to try and re-establish himself as an everyday type, making it a lower risk with chance for high reward.
Cody Ross: He is a surprising defender that shows the ability to play any outfield position, but is better in left or right. He shows above average range. He took a nose dive in 2011 and it may drive the demand and price down on the open market. His decline was a product of playing in the NL West and he would be an under the radar type player that could provide value to the Orioles. He shows solid pitch recognition and the ability to draw walks. If he is placed into a stadium such as Camden Yards, I think his offensive production can go north of last season’s .730 OPS and should be closer to .800 OPS.
David DeJesus: Dejesus is a corner outfielder that a team would hope starts to show his Kansas City roots. He may have to be platooned with a right handed bat, which would fit well with Reimold’s splits. He is a buy low bat that teams could shy away from, but the results might be tied to playing a majority of the game in pitcher parks in the AL West. He is not a flashy name, but he could provide average defense in left field. Maybe a new park setting such as Camden Yards could spark his offense. He might be willing to take a low one year deal with the hopes of improving his stock. The Orioles should be high on his list of teams that will give him the chance to play everyday.
Michael Cuddyer: I profiled him with the infielders, even though his best position is the outfield. He is a liability at any defensive position and his bat may slow down to the point where he is no longer productive, and maybe even replacement level. He profiles better as an off the bench super utility player that can provide pop on occasion.