Ranking the Top 10 Outfielders Available at the MLB Trade Deadline

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistJuly 23, 2013

Ranking the Top 10 Outfielders Available at the MLB Trade Deadline

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    It's just not going to happen.

    No matter how hard we pray to the baseball gods, our favorite team won't pull off a last-minute trade for Miami's Giancarlo Stanton. It's the lack of a superstar like him that makes this year's crop of available outfielders seem, well, pretty awful.

    That's not necessarily true, as a handful of quality options for contenders to pursue exist—but there's a pretty significant drop-off, both in terms of value and production, after you get past that small group of players.

    Still, each of the outfielders on the market would serve a purpose on a contender, even if it was as nothing more than filling the role of fourth outfielder or as a pinch-hitter off of the bench.

    With that said, here's a look at the 10 best outfielders who could be changing uniforms between now and July 31.

     

     

    *Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and are current through games of July 22.

     

    *All contract information courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.

10. Juan Pierre, LF, Miami Marlins

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    2013 Stats

    BAOBPOPSXBH (HR)RBISB
    .243.285.58411 (1)818-of-24

     

    Contract 

    YearSalary
    2013$1.6 million

     

     

    Overview

    Juan Pierre is a shell of the player that he once was, no longer able to get on base with any consistency and a defensive liability in the outfield.

    He can still run, as his speed, while nowhere near what it used to be, is still better than what you find with most corner outfielders.

     

    The Market

    Nobody has been linked to Pierre, and for good reason—just look at his numbers.

    For a contending team that is looking to add some speed to its bench (think Dave Roberts with the Boston Red Sox in 2004), Pierre is an inexpensive option to pursue.

9. Justin Ruggiano, CF, Miami Marlins

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    2013 Stats

    BAOBPOPSXBH (HR)RBISB
    .202.281.65022 (12)3212-of-16

     

    Contract 

    SeasonSalary
    2013$494,500
    2014Arbitration Eligible
    2015Arbitration Eligible
    2016Arbitration Eligible

     

     

    Overview

    He's not a patient hitter by any means, but 31-year-old Justin Ruggiano's combination of power and speed is something that teams covet in an outfielder. The fact that he's under team control for the next three years at what will be reasonable salaries only makes him more attractive.

    Ruggiano is an outstanding defensive center fielder on top of that. While he's played on a fairly regular basis in Miami this season, he's been a fourth outfielder for much of his career, so coming off of the bench on a contending team wouldn't be an issue.

     

    The Market

    Miami isn't necessarily looking to trade Ruggiano, as his low salary for the next three seasons will fit in its budget, according to Juan C. Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, but the rebuilding club would certainly entertain offers from interested parties.

    Both the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers have been linked to Ruggiano, according to Fox Sports, but he'd fit on nearly any contending club that was looking for a better fourth outfielder than what they currently have.

8. Chris Carter, Houston Astros

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    2013 Stats

    BAOBPOPSXBH (HR)RBISB
    .228.330.79033 (18)480-of-0

     

    Contract 

    SeasonSalary
    2013$494,000
    2014Pre-Arbitration Eligible
    2015Arbitration Eligible
    2016Arbitration Eligible
    2017Arbitration Eligible
    2018Arbitration Eligible

     

     

    Overview

    There isn't an available outfielder who is under team control for as long as Chris Carter, but the argument could be made that it's a stretch to call the 26-year-old an outfielder at all.

    Of the 121 players who have played at least 250 innings in a major league outfield this season, only one, Los Angeles' Matt Kemp, grades out as a more inept fielder than Carter, according to FanGraphs. Kemp has the injury excuse to point to as a reason for his sub-par defensive play—Carter does not.

    But he can also play first base, and that versatility—along with his legitimate 30-home run potential—could make him an attractive option for a contender looking for some pop from the right side of the plate. 

     

    The Market

    Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe speculated that Carter would be a fit for the Yankees, while I think that he could be a fit in Pittsburgh, where he would offer more production than Garrett Jones as part of a first base platoon with Gaby Sanchez.

7. Alejandro De Aza, CF, Chicago White Sox

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    2013 Stats

    BAOBPOPSXBH (HR)RBISB
    .275.333.77134 (12)4411-of-15

     

    Contract  

    SeasonSalary
    2013$2.075 million
    2014Arbitration Eligible
    2015Arbitration Eligible
    2016Arbitration Eligible

     

     

    Overview

    Solid at the plate, with the ability to hit for average and power, Alejandro De Aza is another low-cost option on the market for teams looking for an upgrade in center field.

    Advanced metrics grade the 29-year-old as a terrible defensive outfielder, as FanGraphs has him ranked last among qualified major league center fielders with a minus-21.5 UZR/150 and minus-15 DRS, but his team-friendly contract and solid numbers with the bat make him an attractive option. 

     

    The Market

    De Aza has yet to be linked to any team, but both Philadelphia, which lost Ben Revere to a broken foot, and San Francisco, which is platooning Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres in center field, would seem to be logical fits for the six-year veteran.

6. Nate Schierholtz, RF, Chicago Cubs

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    2013 Stats

    BAOBPOPSXBH (HR)RBISB
    .269.329.82133 (11)355-of-7

     

    Contract 

    YearSalary
    2014Arbitration Eligible

     

     

    Overview

    Nate Schierholtz doesn't do any one thing great but is solid across the board, with the ability to hit for average and some power with decent speed on the basepaths. Defensively, Schierholtz is above-average with the glove and has an adequate throwing arm from a corner outfield spot.

    Ideally, the 29-year-old would be the left-handed part of an outfield platoon, as he hits right-handed pitching very well.

    With Schierholtz making only $2.25 million in 2013 and not likely to get a massive raise through arbitration, he's the kind of player who would fit into any team's budget.

     

     

    The Market

    Only the Yankees have been linked to Schierholtz on the rumor mill, but he'd be a great addition in Pittsburgh as part of a platoon with Jose Tabata and could serve as a fourth outfielder for any contending team looking to bolster its bench.

5. Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    2013 Stats

    BAOBPOPSXBH (HR)RBISB
    .265.346.73327 (6)313-of-6

     

    Contract 

    SeasonSalary
    2013$13.5 million
    2014$15.5 million
    2015$18 million
    2016$18 million
    2017$17.5 million
    2018$17.5 million vesting option ($2.5 million buyout)

     

     

    Overview

    The biggest problem for the Dodgers when it comes to moving Andre Ethier is the five-year, $85 million extension that the team gave him last year. There's just no way that the 31-year-old is ever going to meet the expectations that come along with such a high salary.

    That's not to say that Ethier can't still be a productive player. He knows how to get on base, has some power and is a versatile defender capable of playing all three spots in the outfield.

    But he needs regular playing time to produce, and with the emergence of Yasiel Puig, Ethier has become the most expensive fourth outfielder in baseball history.

     

    The Market

    ESPN's Jayson Stark says that the Dodgers aren't actively shopping Ethier, but there's no doubt that they would gladly listen to another team who was interested in acquiring the two-time All-Star, though Los Angeles would likely have to agree to pick up a big chunk of his remaining salary to facilitate a deal.

4. Alfonso Soriano, LF, Chicago Cubs

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    2013 Stats

    BAOBPOPSXBH (HR)RBISB
    .256.286.75642(17)5110-of-15

     

    Contract 

    YearSalary
    2013$18 million
    2014$18 million

     

     

    Overview

    He's still allergic to taking a walk and no longer the 30-30 threat that he was earlier in his career, but 37-year-old Alfonso Soriano remains capable of producing runs in the middle of a team's lineup.

    While Soriano isn't going to win any Gold Glove Awards in left field, he's not as terrible with the glove as some believe. According to FanGraphs, Soriano ranks sixth among qualified major league left fielders with a 7.6 UZR/150, ahead of players like Kansas City's Alex Gordon and Cleveland's Michael Brantley.

    There are two big hurdles to get over when it comes to trading Soriano: his contract and his full no-trade clause.

    Last season, Soriano blocked a trade that would have sent him to San Francisco, as he wants to play in a city where he can live comfortably.

     

     

    The Market

    George A. King III of the New York Post reports that the New York Yankees are close to acquiring Soriano from the Cubs. Reportedly, the deal would see Chicago pick up the bulk of the money left on his contract to get a mid-level prospect back from the Yankees.

    Another team looking for a right-handed bat with power, the Texas Rangers, have also been linked to the 13-year veteran.

3. Marlon Byrd, RF, New York Mets

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    2013 Stats

    BAOBPOPSXBH (HR)RBISB
    .276.321.84335 (17)561-of-4

     

    Contract 

    SeasonSalary
    2013$700,000

     

     

    Overview

    An afterthought when he signed a minor league contract with the Mets this past offseason, Marlon Byrd has been rejuvenated in New York and is having one of the best seasons of his career. He's three home runs and 24 RBI away from setting new career highs in both categories.

    While he strikes out a ton, Byrd has a solid approach at the plate that allows him to hit for average and power against both right-handed and left-handed pitching.

    A terrific clubhouse presence, the 35-year-old has the ability to play all three outfield positions well, though at this point in his career he's best suited for a corner spot.

     

    The Market

    New York will listen to offers on Byrd but are in no rush to trade him, as Jorge Castillo of The Star-Ledger reports that the team has a very high asking price for the 12-year veteran, one that I have a hard time imagining another team being willing to pay.

2. Alex Rios, RF, Chicago White Sox

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    2013 Stats 

    BAOBPOPSXBH (HR)RBISB
    .270.326.75733 (11)4219-of-25

     

    Contract 

    YearSalary
    2013$12.5 million
    2014$12.5
    2015 (Team Option)$13.5 million* ($1 million buyout)

     *If Rios is traded, a $500,000 trade kicker increases the option to $14 million

     

    Overview

    Alex Rios has been the Bret Saberhagen of batters, alternating great seasons with mediocre ones throughout his career. After a phenomenal 2012 and a hot start this year, it looked like the 32-year-old was about to buck that trend.

    Then the end of May hit, and Rios' bat went cold.

    How bad has it been?

    Take a look at how his numbers stack up against another high-profile right fielder, beginning with games on May 25, the last time Rios had an OPS over .900 this season:

    PlayerBAOBPOPSXBH (HR)RBI
    Josh Hamilton.224.271.71921 (8)25
    Alex Rios.253.296.64313 (2)21

    Those aren't pretty numbers—for either player.

    It's that slump, along with his salary, that has led to the White Sox receiving disappointing offers* from interested parties so far. (*ESPN Insider subscription required to view full article.)

    But the closer we get to the trade deadline, the more that will change.

    Rios hits both left-and-right-handed pitching equally well, something that he's done consistently throughout his career, and both his power and speed are legitimate.

    He hasn't played center field in a few years, but could if a team needed him to. He is a solid defender capable of manning all three outfield positions and has a fantastic throwing arm.

    For a team in need of power from the right-side of the plate or an upgrade in the outfield, Rios is about as complete a player as they'll find available.

     

    The Market

    According to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Rios has a limited no-trade clause in his contract that allows him to block trades to six teams: Arizona, Colorado, Houston, Kansas City, New York (AL) and Oakland.

    While the Yankees are on that list, the team certainly has the financial wherewithal to convince Rios to waive his no-trade clause, perhaps by guaranteeing to pick up—or not pick up—that team option for 2015.

    Aside from the Yankees, whose interest is only speculative, Rios has been linked to BostonPittsburgh and Texas.

1. Norichika Aoki, RF, Milwaukee Brewers

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    2013 Stats

    BAOBPOPSXBH (HR)RBISB
    .295.361.73119 (4)2011-of-21

     

    Contract 

    YearSalary
    2014$1.5 million team option ($250,000 buyout)

     

     

    Overview

    When it comes to overall value, no available outfielder can compete with Norichika Aoki, who is guaranteed to see his incredibly team-friendly team option be exercised by whichever team he's playing for after the trade deadline.

    Aoki, 31, is a three-time batting champion in Japan who has a solid .291/.357/.407 slash line since joining Milwaukee for the 2012 season.

    While he doesn't offer much in the way of power, Aoki has a solid approach at the plate and knows how to get on base consistently, making him a fit at the top—or bottom—of a team's lineup.

    When you take his play and contract into account, there isn't a more valuable outfielder available right now than Aoki.

     

    The Market

    So far, only one team, the Texas Rangers, has been linked to Aoki on the rumor mill. I'd speculate that Aoki would be a fit for both the Philadelphia Phillies (replacing Delmon Young) and San Francisco Giants (replacing the team's left field platoon).