Let’s take a look at center fielders destinated to become free agents at year’s end. This position typically requires a good defender, though it’s nice to contribute offensively.
2006 League Averages for Center Fielders:
AL: .275/.334/.437 (.771 OPS)
NL: .264/.335/.418 (.753 OPS)
Center field defense is crucial. With that in mind, I will provide John Dewan’s ranking from his excellent Fielding Bible. Dewan and company ranked 35 center fielders using data over the past three seasons. I am going to leave Preston Wilson, Bernie Williams, and Jay Payton out of the discussion as they are not viewed as regular center fielders.
Darin Erstad – Erstad returned to center field for 27 games this year, and it’s hard to get a read on how far his defense has fallen since his 2002 Gold Glove season out there. He’s 32 now and is earning $8.5MM. An ankle injury put him on the DL this season two separate times. Given his below average bat and shaky ankle, all the grittiness in the world wouldn’t make him a good signing for ’07 and beyond. The Rox are interested even after their acquisition of Willy Taveras.
Steve Finley – Finley turned 41 this season and makes $7 mil. His 2007 option for the same price will surely be bought out for a million bucks. His bat is below average for the position this year. His defense is ranked 14th out of 35 center fielders over the last three years but declined considerably last year. His arm is OK and his range is diminished at this point. A pretty poor signing but someone will probably bite for a million or so. The Cubs could work.