State of play: Free agent outfielders


Alternate headline: Shin-Soo Choo, Nelson Cruz, and three guys you'd be really uncomfortable signing.

The outfielder market has been a rather lively one so far this winter. Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson, Carlos Beltran, and Marlon Byrd have all signed hefty multi-year contracts, leaving rather scant options beyond the top two names left on the table. Nevertheless, let's take a quick look at the top five outfielders still available in free agency and how their markets have developed:

Shin-Soo Choo, 31, RF/CF

Choo is the only player left on the market who might reasonably command over $100 million, and it's possible that he has a few offers of that value in hand. It was reported on the Monday of the winter meetings that his contract negotiations were reaching a "critical stage," but nothing has happened in the week since.

Choo is reportedly looking for a seven-year deal between the $127 million the Nats gave Jayson Werth in 2011 and the $153 million that the Yankees bestowed on Jacoby Ellsbury in November. He was also extended a qualify offer by the Reds, meaning he'll cost his new club a draft pick in 2014.

Agent Scott Boras indicated last week that his client has received a number of contract offers and is "moving closer" to a decision, but didn't give any set timetable or hint at any destinations. The Rangers and Mariners were recently proclaimed the "lead dogs" in the Choo sweepstakes, but Texas might have reservations about his asking price and Seattle just added two potential corner outfielders in Corey Hart and Logan Morrison.

The Astros, Diamondbacks, Reds, and Tigers have all been linked to Choo this winter as well. However, Detroit and Arizona are presumed to be done shopping for outfielders this winter since adding Rajai Davis and Mark Trumbo, respectively, and Cincinnati GM Walt Jocketty has indicated on a number of occasions that the club is planning to "move on" from Choo. That leaves enigmatic Houston as a potential dark horse candidate, which... who knows.

Nelson Cruz, 33, RF

When the offseason began, Cruz was reportedly on the market for a five-year, $75 million deal. While the latest rumors seem to indicate that his price has decreased some since then, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times writes that Cruz is still hoping for $16-$17 million per year, which is actually up from his original proposal.

The big change in Cruz's asking price, then, has come not in average annual value, but in length. For instance, the Rangers are reportedly interested in bringing the right fielder back to Arlington on a two-year deal, but Cruz is holding out for three, so it seems he's knocked two seasons off his demands.

The Mariners have been linked to Cruz for some time, but their interest might be waning. Seattle had "serious interest" in signing the slugger before they added Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, the club may now have too many DH types for him to fit into their plans. However, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN hears that the M's are still in play for Cruz, so he could end up in the Emerald City after all.

The Rockies, Orioles, Athletics, and Royals have also been linked to Cruz, but their levels of interest in the slugger are unclear.

Raúl Ibañez, 41, LF/DH

Calling Raúl Ibañez an outfielder at this point in his career is something of a disservice to outfielders -- just look at this treasure trove of GIFs -- but that didn't stop the Mariners from putting him in left field for 99 games in 2013. The lefty slugger is probably best suited to serve as a DH platoon against righties next season, but there's no telling where on the field he'll actually end up playing.

Even taking his abysmal defense into consideration, Ibañez's market has been relatively quiet for a guy who hit 29 home runs in 2013. The veteran slugger was the subject of a flurry of rumors during the winter meetings that linked him to the Angels, but that trail has gone cold in the last week. Ibañez is likely just one of a number of players the Halos are checking on as a DH option.

The Orioles, Rockies, and Yankees have all been linked to the 41-year-old at some point in December, but not since the winter meetings came to a close.

Franklin Gutiérrez, 30, CF

Gutiérrez's market has been rather quiet this winter, which is probably as expected. The fleet-footed center fielder has been unable to remain healthy for much of the last three seasons; six trips to the disabled list have limited Gutiérrez to 173 games since 2011, in which he's batted just .238/.276/.363 with 15 home runs.

One could probably argue against his inclusion on this list given those numbers, but his defense in center--when healthy--is the stuff dreams are made of, so earns a spot in the top five.

The Mariners declined Guti's 2014 option after the season, but have shown interest in re-signing him to an incentive-based deal this winter. The Red Sox are another potential fit and are believed to like him as a potential complement to the lefty-hitting Jackie Bradley Jr. in center. Gutiérrez has never been viewed as weapon on offense, but he owns a career 818 OPS against left-handed pitching

The Giants were said to like Gutiérrez as a platoon option with Gregor Blanco in left field, but went with Mike Morse instead.

Delmon Young, 28, RF/DH

When a "best of" list ends with Delmon Young, you know the pickings are slim. Young bounced between the Phillies and the Rays in 2013, hitting .260/.307/.407 with 16 home runs in 103 games overall. He spent much of his time in Philadelphia as the club's right fielder, but was relegated to designated hitter duty when he arrived in Tampa Bay.

Most clubs have noticed that Young's only redeeming quality in the outfield is his arm, which likely explains why the veteran is trying to increase his value by working out at first base this winter. His attempt to learn a new position has piqued the interest of the Marlins, per Joe Frisaro of, who could potentially use Young in a platoon at the cold corner with Garrett Jones.

While Young is not the elite hitter many hoped he'd be when he was billed baseball's top prospect back in 2006, he still mashes lefty pitching with the best of them. He is a career .303/.341/.471 hitter in just over 1,100 plate appearances against lefties.

Young has also expressed interest in returning to the Rays, but it's unclear whether that is a mutual interest.

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