It was far from clear last winter when and where Lorenzo Cain would sign. Still, his status as the lone standout center fielder on the market gave confidence that he’d ultimately find a solid deal. That’s ultimately just what happened, as Cain landed just above MLBTR’s prediction (4/$70MM) with a five-year, $80MM pact.
This time around, A.J. Pollock entered the market without a terribly clear outlook. As with Cain, it was possible to imagine quite a few teams signing him, but hard to point to any particularly obvious fits. Likewise, he’s also obviously the best-available, up-the-middle outfield option. Pollock’s checkered health background led MLBTR to predict a contract of four years and $60MM, even though he has the edge on Cain in age.
So, how do things look now that the calendar has flipped to 2019? Though Pollock remains unsigned, the market has changed shape around him.
Several teams that seemed to be suitors may no longer be. Having signed Michael Brantley, the Astros don’t appear to be much of a fit. While the Mets would surely still like to upgrade, they seem to be limited financially from doing so, with the team evidently choosing to rely on bounceback candidates Juan Lagares and Keon Broxton up the middle. The Reds have added two veteran outfielders; if they were ever a likely suitor, they probably aren’t now.
It’s questionable, perhaps, whether the White Sox are still a plausible landing spot. On the one hand, the club just reached agreement with veteran Jon Jay, who has spent most of his career patrolling center. Of course, he’d also be a plausible corner piece. And it’s fair to wonder what the Chicago front office will do if it fails to land either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. There still seem to be some scenarios where Pollock fits, depending upon how aggressive the organization ends up being.
Of course, the South Siders’ decisionmaking will surely also include reference to their division rivals in Cleveland. While the Indians have focused to this point on clearing salary, and may not be interested in adding any back, it’s also possible that they’ll find a way to squeeze in a significant contract. Pollock remains a strong roster fit, though the club does not need to focus up the middle specifically with Leonys Martin on hand.
The National League East also has a few possible landing spots. While the Phillies are weighing more significant additions, the team could still check back in after the Harper/Machado situations have further evolved. Innumerable possibilities — and lots of dollars — remain available to the Phils. It is less clear that the Braves will have the need and the willingness to chase down Pollock at this point, though they have been connected in the past. The club has other options up the middle, but could like the idea of utilizing Pollock at times in the corners while forming a ball-hawing, still offensively-capable outfield unit. Given the Atlanta organization’s recent history, though, it seems unlikely that it’ll chase the market.
Out west, the fit is yet more speculative. The Giants have long made some sense but aren’t exactly playing an active role in the offseason to this point. It’s possible to imagine a deal, but new president of baseball ops Farhan Zaidi is no doubt realistic about the organization’s immediate outlook and will surely prefer not to tie up future payroll. There’s certainly a way to imagine the division-favorite Dodgers as a landing spot, particularly after the club dealt away a pair of right-handed-hitting outfielders, but signing a sizable deal with Pollock doesn’t really match the front office’s recent approach. Plus, Chris Taylor remains available as a right-handed-hitting center fielder.
Beyond those clubs, there are a few others that could be matches — but only if you squint. Pollock would be a luxury for the Rockies or Angels, but with other priorities and limitations those hopeful contenders likely won’t consider him at full price. The D-Backs would surely like to have Pollock back, but only at a discount. The Tigers or Rangers could still surprise, perhaps, as both have ample spending capacity against their historical levels, but there’s no reason at this point to believe that either club will hand out a long-term deal with little in the way of 2019 hopes and dreams. While the Athletics may or may not believe Ramon Laureano is ready to hold down near-everyday duties in center, they’re unlikely to allocate significant resources to the outfield with so many right-handed-hitting outfield options already available and ongoing rotation needs.
Given those considerations, where do you think Pollock is likeliest to land at this point? (Poll link for app users.)