Outfielder Jurickson Profar is one of the top free agents that still remains unsigned and he is drawing plenty of interest around the league. He’s already been connected to the Yankees, Astros and Red Sox at various points throughout the winter and it seems there are a few more teams involved. Jon Morosi of MLB Network reports that the teams interested in Bryan Reynolds are keeping tabs on Profar, a group which includes the Marlins and Rangers.
Reynolds has been consistently in trade rumors for quite some time, which is fairly logical given that he’s emerged as a very good player on a rebuilding Pirates team. He won’t be a free agent until after 2025 and the team could find itself back in contention in that time, but there would also be sense in exchanging his final years of control for younger players that can continue to help the club beyond that timeframe. The Bucs could prolong their relationship with Reynolds by extending him, but recent reporting indicates the sides have been about $50MM apart in their discussions, suggesting a deal isn’t likely to get done anytime soon.
Various teams have tried to free Reynolds from Pittsburgh’s clutches over the past year or two and the player himself has even asked for a trade, but all reports have indicated that the Bucs have been sticking to a high asking price in any trade talks. Jon Heyman of The New York Post recently reported that they are looking for a return analogous to what the Nationals got in the Juan Soto deal. Given the difficulty in working something out with the Pittsburgh front office, it’s understandable that clubs would look to alternatives like Profar.
There are some similarities between the two players as both are switch-hitting outfielders. They’re actually not terribly far apart in age, despite Profar debuting all the way back in 2012. He was only 19 years old then and is now about to turn 30 next month. Reynolds is a couple of years younger, turning 28 in just over a week.
They are also both outfielders, though Reynolds has decidedly more value on defense given that he’s a passable center fielder. Teams will likely have varying views over exactly how passable he is there, since the advanced defensive metrics are split on how to grade his work up the middle. He’s accrued 4 Outs Above Average in his career at that spot but has -16 Defensive Runs Saved and a -7.1 from Ultimate Zone Rating. Profar, meanwhile, began his career as an infielder but has gradually spent more and more time in the outfield. Since 2019, he’s made brief appearances at second and first base but hasn’t appeared at shortstop or third base. Last year, the Padres kept him exclusively in left field. He did spend 156 2/3 innings in center field over 2020 and 2021 but wasn’t graded well there and is likely considered a corner outfielder by most clubs.
At the plate, Reynolds and Profar have admirable qualities, but in different ways. Both players are good at getting on base, with Reynolds posting a .345 OBP last year and .361 mark for his career. Profar is slightly behind in that regard, with a .331 OBP in 2022 and .322 overall. Reynolds is also ahead in the power department, hitting 27 home runs last year and 74 in his career thus far. Profar hit 15 last year and has only 78 in his career, despite more than 1,000 extra plate appearances compared to Reynolds. Profar’s work was enough for a 110 wRC+ last year, 10% better than league average, but behind the 125 that Reynolds managed.
There’s little doubting that Reynolds is a more enticing option than Profar but the latter option will cost only money, allowing the acquiring club to hang onto the pile of prospects they would theoretically send to Pittsburgh in a Reynolds deal. MLBTR predicted Profar could secure a two-year, $20MM deal at the start of the offseason. That was before the market really got going and surpassed the expectations of many observers, though Profar lingering on the market suggests no team has been eager to blow him away by surging beyond that vicinity.
The Rangers currently have a competitive balance tax calculation of $219MM, per the calculations of Roster Resource. Signing someone like Profar to about $10MM per year would start pushing them close to the $233MM luxury tax threshold. It’s unclear if that’s any kind of barrier for the club, but it’s something they would have to consider if they decide to bring Profar into the fold. The Marlins, meanwhile, are nowhere near the luxury tax but are in somewhat uncharted spending territory for them. Roster Resource has their payroll currently at $103MM. That’s well beyond last year’s $79MM mark, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts, and the highest since the Bruce Sherman-led group bought the team from Jeffrey Loria in 2017. It’s unknown how much more they have to work with but any further spending would continue to stretch them beyond comfort zone of the past few years.
Regardless of the final cost, there are logical reasons for both teams to pursue outfield upgrades. The Rangers have Adolis García in right field and Leody Taveras as a glove-first option in center. They’ve been on the hunt for left field upgrades, given that their current choices make up a mixed bag of imperfect options. Brad Miller, Josh Smith, Ezequiel Durán and Mark Mathias are on the roster, though they’ve all spent more time on the infield than the outfield in their careers. Furthermore, all but Mathias are coming off poor seasons at the plate. Bubba Thompson is a more straightforward solution since he’s an outfielder and can at least steal some bases, but he strikes out a ton and hit .265/.302/.312 in his major league debut.
The Marlins have been seeking outfield upgrades for quite some time but added a few options into the corners last year by signing Avisaíl García and Jorge Soler. Both players had disappointing seasons in 2022 but are still under contract for 2023, with Soler seemingly ticketed for plenty of time as the designated hitter after he dealt with back spasms in the later parts of last season. That could leave one corner available for someone like Profar, though they also have Bryan De La Cruz, Jesús Sánchez and JJ Bleday currently lined up to battle for the two spots next to Garcia. None of those three are truly established and an external addition could bump them all down the depth charts until they take steps forward in cementing themselves. De La Cruz hits right-handed and the other two from the left side, which could allow them to form a platoon in center with one player getting nudged to the bench or the minors.