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2016-2017 Free Agency Preview: Outfielders

Let the buying frenzy begin!

MLB: ALDS-Texas Rangers at Toronto Blue Jays
Bat connoisseur Gogo Gomez
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Brewers are probably a few years (at least) away from being major players in free agency, and one gets the feeling that they might never really go after the big money guys as long as David Stearns is the GM. But who signs whom might make some other whom available, and sets the prices, so we will look at the top available players by position groups this week.

Today we look at the top outfielders, and this is the cream of the Free Agency crop. Money will be spent here, and when all the dust settles Ryan Braun’s contract will again look more palatable than it used to. Of course, he will also look good in left field for the Brewers, but at some point Slingin’ David Stearns may very well get an offer that he can’t refuse.

Top 10 (again, more or less a consensus list with my biases heavily in play)

  1. Yoenis Cespedes
  2. Dexter Fowler
  3. Mark Trumbo
  4. Ian Desmond
  5. Jose Bautista
  6. Carlos Gomez
  7. Josh Reddick
  8. Michael Saunders
  9. Colby Rasmus
  10. Matt Holliday

Others: Carlos Beltran, Brandon Moss, Angel Pagan

Yoenis Cespedes is going to be a rich man. He has produced for the Mets the last two seasons, and is only 31. Any seriously contending team would be helped by him. He is a good enough fielder to not need a DH spot, and can play a little center for you, too. (Of course, so could Mark Kotsay, but I digress.) In a hitter’s park, Cespedes could reach 40 homers. My bold off season prediction: Yoenis will not sign with the Brewers.

Dexter Fowler is an average center fielder, and a very good on base guy. The Cubs have a plethora of outfielders and have issued Fowler a QO. While the Cubs may hope to sign him for 2017 and beyond, Fowler will be testing the open market again after having to settle for a one year deal last winter. Dexter is only 31 and while his contract might not end up as the second highest among outfielders, his value might be in that slot.

Mark Trumbo might not be the third best oufielder available, and might end up playing more as a DH, but 47 homers, 108 RBI, and 94 runs scored can get a lot of teams salivating. The Orioles would like him back, and have given him a QO. I’ve also heard that the Red Sox might be in need of a DH...

Ian Desmond was the big FA loser in the last off season and ended up “settling” for $8 mil with the Rangers. After playing primarily shortstop to start his career Desmond played mostly center field in 2016. His season (22 homers, 107 runs, 86 RBI, .288 BA) and his age (31) should make him a winner this off season, and his versatility (he can move back into shortstop or around the infield in a pinch) makes him even more enticing. My prediction? Desmond will once again be the biggest disappointment of the FA we are talking about today.

Jose Bautista’s injury plagued 2016 did the opposite for his FA prospects than Desmond’s season did for him. He fell off to 22 homers in 423 at bats, but his 87 walks still brought him in at a .366 OBP even though his BA fell to .234. However, his OPS of .817 was his worst in 7 seasons. An intriguing target, though...no? At 36 not a long term signing, most likely.

Carlos Gomez rescued his season after a horrible start in Houston when he was DFA’d and signed with the Rangers. But the same issues are there: he seems to have physically declined, and teams will see that. Somebody will give him a contract, but I fear they will be disappointed.

Josh Reddick will be 30 next season, and is a serviceable outfielder, but we have probably started the group of outfielders that won’t be difference makers next season. He may or may not be a starting outfielder somewhere, but his power numbers have declined from a high of 32 in 2012 for the A’s to only 10 last year for Oakland and the Dodgers combined.

Michael Saunders had a great first half for the Blue Jays last year, and was an All Star. His second half was awful, but he did end up with 24 homers. His OPS of .815 was the best of his career. He will get probably a 3 year deal or so, at age 30.

Colby Rasmus had a down year at .205, with a poor OPS of .641. But the Astros didn’t DFA him, like they did somebody else. I think he will get a pretty good deal, and I think he will produce for that contract.

Somebody will sign Matt Holliday. He will be 37, is breaking down physically, has slipped defensively, and he won’t get a long term deal. Maybe two years. I can’t imagine the Cards bringing him back.

Among the others, Carlos Beltran will be 40; Brandon Moss only has one good aspect to his game, and Angel Pagan will be a good 4th outfielder somewhere. He’s a good switch hitter.

The Brewers’ outfield future doesn’t reside in free agents. Yay!

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs