This is the latest installment in our Market Snapshot series. After checking on corner outfield options earlier tonight, we’ll look up the middle.
Teams In Need
Unless they move Dee Gordon back to the outfield, the Mariners have a hole. While the Giants have hopes for Steven Duggar, they’ll surely be on the lookout for other options this winter. Just what kind of player they’ll be interested in will depend upon who they hire to run their baseball ops department and what direction they take.
It’s arguable that several other NL West clubs should be looking up the middle, too. The Rockies could certainly stand to bump Charlie Blackmon to a corner spot, while the Diamondbacks will be looking for new blood. With Arizona potentially taking a rebuilding approach, of course, a big expenditure would seem unlikely.
While the position isn’t an area of need for the Phillies, all bets are off in Philadelphia. Just how much of a need there’ll be for the Indians isn’t known, though it’ll be hard for the team to count on a return from Leonys Martin. The Athletics were fairly unsettled up the middle, but perhaps saw enough in Ramon Laureano to more or less turn the job over to him for a full run. Perhaps there are some scenarios where the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, or Astros decide to shift around some pieces and pursue a center fielder, though that’d seemingly be dependent upon opportunity rather than need.
Whether the Reds believe they’re ready to begin winning could help decide their moves in center. An upgrade would certainly be in order if the organization wants to ramp up toward contention. Otherwise, the Rangers and White Sox aren’t settled in center and could potentially be opportunistic buyers. The Royals and Marlins are less likely to spend, and have some youthful players to try out, but also don’t have clear solutions on hand.
While this class doesn’t have any stars, it features at least one quality regular option in A.J. Pollock. While his durability remains a question, and he failed to sustain a hot start over the course of 2018, Pollock figures to command a strong, multi-year commitment.
Despite a middling 2018 season, sturdy veteran Brett Gardner is probably the best alternative. If his option isn’t picked up and traded, he’ll bring his typically steady lefty bat to the free agent market.
Otherwise, the market contains timeshare options at most. Players like Carlos Gomez, Austin Jackson, Jon Jay, Adam Jones, Cameron Maybin, Gerardo Parra, Denard Span, and Chris Young likely won’t be considered as even semi-regular options up the middle. Though all have spent significant time as everyday options in center over the years, none has shown the ability to do so productively of late. Indeed, it’s debatable whether any but Jay, Maybin, and perhaps Gomez will really be seen as realistic options to take the field in center after the defensive showings made in 2018.
Potential Regulars: It’s tough to know what the Rays are thinking, but Kevin Kiermaier is the only player they are locked into contractually. Given that he’s coming off of a subpar season, though, perhaps it’s likelier they’ll hold for the time being and hope he bounces back. The Blue Jays could consider dangling Kevin Pillar. Perhaps most plausibly of all, the Phillies could decide it’s time to move on from the enigmatic Odubel Herrera, who’d be of interest elsewhere.
Platoon/Bounceback Options: The Nationals could hang on to Michael Taylor as a reserve, but it’s also possible they’ve seen enough. Taylor has plenty of glove and runs well but remains an inconsistent performer at the plate. That description is true in an even more extreme form with regard to Billy Hamilton of the Reds, a fascinating player who is miscast as an everyday piece. The Yankees and Cardinals would surely like to find takers for Jacoby Ellsbury and Dexter Fowler, respectively, but it’s tough to either player moving except perhaps in some kind of bad contract swap.