Many marquee free agents have inked huge deals during free agency this summer, yet the market for outfielders is still rich and the needle hasn’t moved all that much. Jason Heyward inked an eight-year, $184 million deal with the Chicago Cubs, but almost every other outfielder who’s put pen to paper has settled for one-year contracts. That’s largely in part due to huge names holding out for bigger deals, as there are still plenty of top-tier outfielders available.
Yoenis Cespedes’ value soared last season as his performance largely escalated in 2015. He had a bounceback season, posting big numbers with 35 home runs and 105 RBI with a .291 average split between the Detroit Tigers and New York Mets. The concern in spending big money on the 31-year-old is his age, his paltry .328 on-base percentage, and his whopping 141 strikeouts against just 33 walks. The power numbers are impressive, but given his struggles elsewhere offensively, he’s probably on the verge of decline. The Mets experimented with him in center field, which was a bust as Cespedes is best suited to remain in left field where he had 15 defensive runs saved split between New York and Detroit, earning the 2015 AL Gold Glove at the position.
Teams have been lukewarm on Cespedes. The Mets have indicated they’re not interested in bringing him back at an absurd cost, and other clubs like the Tigers are sitting back and waiting to see if his price plummets before swooping in. The Tigers actually make quite a bit of sense for Cespedes, as Anthony Gose – the current left fielder – is probably best off the bench. Will they pony up $100+ million for his services? That remains to be seen. Don’t count out the Los Angeles Angels, San Francisco Giants, or Kansas City Royals however, as they could all use Cespedes to fill their left field gap.
Lifetime Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon is another big name still available. Gordon dealt with injuries last season, but still earned his third consecutive All-Star selection. The 31-year-old will do a little bit of everything as he’s got good hit tools, decent pop, doesn’t strike out a ton, has good on-base skills, and is a Gold Glove-caliber fielder. Dealing with injury issues, he had somewhat of a disappointing year in 2015, with 13 home runs in 48 RBI in 104 games, but still produced a .377 OBP and a .809 OPS. It seemed like a given he’d re-sign with the Royals, but he’s apparently too rich for their blood as reports have suggested they have no chance of re-signing him. The St. Louis Cardinals may be intent on going with what they have, but Gordon makes a lot of sense for them. The Chicago White Sox also seem like a logical fit, with Melky Cabrera being a liability in the outfield.
Justin Upton is also available, but it’s harder to peg his destination. The 28-year-old had a solid year with the San Diego Padres hitting 26 home runs and driving in 81 runs to go along with 19 stolen bases and a .251 batting average. He’s not going to win a Gold Glove, but he’s not a total liability in left field. Upton still relatively young and has impressive power, although he strikes out a ton. The logical fit to me, is the Baltimore Orioles, especially if they lose Chris Davis in free agency. The Orioles have little power right now, and Upton wouldn’t certainly supplement the issue. The Tigers also make sense (see reasons above). The Giants, Indians, and Angels all should have interest in him as well. There are plenty of teams who should be lining up for his services, as he’d bring a lot of pop to his new club.
Outside of the trio of Cespedes, Gordon and Upton there are plenty of solid options who could be had. Dexter Fowler, Austin Jackson, Gerardo Parra, Marlon Byrd, Denard Span, and Alex Rios are all options for teams looking for a starter in the outfield. Fowler and Span will probably command longer deals, but not at the same price of Cespedes, Gordon and Upton – the other players can probably be signed on one to two-year deals.
You get the feeling once one of the trio signs, then it will create a domino effect of signings as teams start to fill out their roster. There’s plenty of options to choose from still, so it will be fascinating to see how the market plays out.