Centerfield is a position that many teams are looking for help, at least so it seems. There are very few true impact players at the position, and that rings true to this season’s potential free agents class (though it’s possible there are a few non-tenders who help improve the group). Let’s take a look at the top five players who will likely be available:
5) David DeJesus/Willie Bloomquist/Rick Ankiel
Do any of these players really excite you? It goes to show how thin the free agent class is before the non-tenders get factored in. All three of them will likely sign just to be role players and offer little more upside then that.
4) Nate McLouth
It’s a no-brainer that the Braves decline his $10.65 million option. The real question is what exactly has happened to McLouth? He has been terrible since being dealt from Pittsburgh to Atlanta, looking like a shell of the player who hit 26 HR and stole 23 bases in 2008.
There clearly is talent there, but he needs a fresh start in order to try and reestablish himself as an everyday player. With the number of teams likely looking for help up the middle, he will likely sign somewhere to be a fourth outfielder but get an opportunity to win a starting spot. It’s possible he’s even brought on a minor league deal, though someone will probably give him a low-end guarantee (something around $1 million).
3) Cody Ross
He’s not an ideal fit in centerfield and likely cannot be a full-time option for a team with championship aspirations. With that said, it also shows you how slim the pickings are, doesn’t it?
He has struggled the past two seasons, with 28 total home runs, but is only two years removed from hitting 24 HR with 90 RBI for the Florida Marlins. He’s also proven in the past to hit lefties extremely well, which will definitely add to his potential value.
The best landing spot for him would be an American League team, where he could see some spot time in centerfield, while also being used in a corner outfield spot as well as a part time designated hitter. In the right situation Ross’ bat should translate extremely well. Could a team like Oakland or Seattle be a strong fit?
2) Coco Crisp
Injuries are always a concern with Crisp, but over the past two seasons he has shown the baseball world what is possible. Despite getting only 911 plate appearances he has stolen 81 bases in 93 attempts. Only five players have stolen more bases over that span. In fact, there are only 12 players who have stolen at least 60 bases and all have had at least 1,150 plate appearances besides Crisp and Rajai Davis (899).
With that in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising that Crisp will be a player in high demand. Not only does he fill a potential hole in centerfield, but also can provide a top of the order presence. I know he hasn’t posted great averages, but he also has struggled with BABIP of .307 and .284. With the speed he obviously has, would anyone be surprised to see him post a significantly better mark?
The injury concern is going to cap his potential value to many teams, but there are few centerfielders available who possess his type of talent. He should receive a multi-year offer thanks to the skills he brings to the table.
1) Grady Sizemore
If the Cleveland Indians were to decline their $8.5 million option (which appears very possible given his injury history), Sizemore instantly becomes the centerfielder with the most upside on the free agent market. Despite his potentially nagging knee injuries, we all know what he can potentially bring to the table.
We saw Carlos Beltran come back from microfracture surgery in 2011, and while he never brought the same threat on the base paths he proved that it is possible to be a productive player.
Of course, there’s the potential that, like Beltran, the knee issues keep Sizemore from manning centerfield. That is definitely something to consider, as is the fact that the last time he had more than 450 AB in a season was 2008. However, given how thin the other potential options are, we all know a team that needs a potential impact in the outfield is going to be willing to give him a contract.
Think a 1 year, $5 million guarantee (at most) with incentives that could push the contract past the $8.5 million option he would’ve had in Cleveland.
What are your thoughts on these centerfielders? Is there anyone else on the market that you think could make an impact? Are there any potential non-tender candidates that you like?
Make sure to check out all of our baseball free agency articles, including these projections:
- Top 5 Free Agent Starting Pitchers & Projections Where They May Land
- Free Agent Bargains: Top 5 Discount Starting Pitchers Who Could Pay Dividends
- The Top 5 Most Likely Landing Spots For C.J. Wilson
- The Top 5 Most Likely Landing Spots For Prince Fielder
- The Top 5 Most Likely Landing Spots For Jose Reyes