MLB Free Agents 2012: Ranking the 10 Best Outfielders
Free agency won't officially begin until five days after the completion of the World Series, but that doesn't mean it is too early to start looking at who some of the top players that may switch teams will be.
The outfield lacks a true standout star available on the free-agent market this season.
It certainly will not draw the attention of the first base market which will boast both Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. The shortstop market will also be a top draw with both Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins potentially on the move.
That doesn't mean that there are not plenty of outfielders who could have impact on their 2012 clubs, and into the future.
Here are the top 10 outfielders, in my opinion, who will be available this winter via free agency.
10) David DeJesus
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David DeJesus certainly had a down year with Oakland this season, but over the course of his career he has been a reliable player both offensively and on defense.
Prior to a season-ending injury in 2010, DeJesus was batting .318 and one of the top names on the trading block.
His .240 average this season is not a reflection on his true abilities and there are bound to be a number of teams willing to take a chance on him and give him the benefit of a change of scenery.
He has always been a valuable defender, this season being no different. His ultimate zone rating (UZR) score was 10.1 for the 2011 season.
9) Nate McLouth
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I'm not really comfortable ranking Nate McLouth this high on the list of available outfielders, but he technically does have the highest ceiling if he can rediscover his abilities prior to his current two-season slide.
In 2009 McLouth batted .256 while slugging 20 homers. He hit .276 with 26 long-balls the year before in 2008.
Since then, well, he has disappointed, batting just .190 in 85 games in 2010 and .228 this season in 81 games. He has ten totals combined between the past two seasons.
His $10.65 million option being declined is the most certain bet ever, so he will be a free agent.
At just 30 years old, it's hard to imagine a team not taking a chance on him and hoping he rebounds and finds his swing again.
He gets ranked this high based on the prospect of hopeful thinking.
8) J.D. Drew
JD Drew is another player coming off a horrible season, but he should earn a one-year contract aimed at rebuilding his value in hopes of a two to three-year contract offer the following offseason.
His stats definitely dropped off, as he batted just .222 with four homers over 81 games this season.
His strength is his ability to get on base and if he can come back fully healthy in 2012, he should rebound to around a .250 average or so and close to 20 homers.
He's worth the one-year contract he will sign this offseason, and probably much more.
7) Ryan Ludwick
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Yep, that's the kind of season it was for free-agent-to-be outfielders, a .237 average and 13 homers is good enough to rank you seventh among impending free agents at the position.
Ryan Ludwick should find a two or three-year contract this offseason.
If he can regain his 2008 form (.299 batting average and 37 homers) he will wind up being an absolute steal for whoever winds up with him on their roster.
Most teams would even take his 2009 stats (.265 average with 22 homers).
He's probably close to a .250 hitter who should average about 15 homers a season now though, which is still serviceable in this market desperate for any power at all.
6) Jason Kubel
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In only 99 games Jason Kubel managed to outperform Ryan Ludwick.
Kubel finished his 2011 campaign with a .273 average and 12 homers.
It's most likely that the Minnesota Twins will retain Kubel, but he would be a good signing if he does choose to test the open market.
He hit 20 or more homers in each of the past three seasons prior to his shortened 2011 campaign. He is also an adequate outfielder, spending most of his time in right field the past few seasons for Minnesota (when he is not the designated hitter).
5) Josh Willingham
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Josh Willingham quietly had a career year in Oakland this season.
The veteran left fielder batted just .246, but he had career highs in homers with 29 and RBI with 98.
Had he not spent time on the disabled list with an Achilles injury, he almost certainly would have cleared the 30/100 marks for the first time in his career.
Not only is he one of the top outfield bats available, he will be one of the top power bats available at any position this offseason.
Hurting his standings is his injury history and the likelihood that he will need to DH within the next few seasons.
4) Coco Crisp
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Willingham's Oakland teammate, Coco Crisp, is our next best outfielder available this offseason.
Crisp is a disruptive force to opposing teams in the leadoff spot and plays a good center field.
In his healthiest season since 2007 (Crisp played in 136 games this season), he had a career high 49 stolen bases (tied for tops in the league).
At just 31 years old, Crisp will be seeking a three-year deal this offseason. With a few teams in need of both center fielders and leadoff hitters, it's hard to imagine him not getting it.
3) Michael Cuddyer
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Michael Cuddyer was a first time All-Star this season, and deservedly so.
He batted .284 this season with 20 homers and 70 RBI for a very bad Minnesota team.
Cuddyer is capable of playing both in the outfield (right field) and also at first base, offering some versatility to his new club, if he decides to leave Minnesota.
Personally, I can't see him leaving Minnesota, but he is a free agent, and one of the best, so he earns the No. 3 ranking among "available" players.
2) Grady Sizemore
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I happen to agree with Bastian, and if Sizemore can finally put together a healthy season in 2012, he will be an absolute steal for his new team.
From 2005-2008 Sizemore was one of the most dangerous hitters in the American League, regularly hitting around .275 and knocking out between 22-33 homers a year (his actual range during that time).
He has been hampered by injuries the past three seasons, but even in just 71 games this season he hit 10 homers and drove in 32 runs.
He's still a five-tool talent, he just needs to stay healthy for a full season to prove it.
1) Carlos Beltran
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It should come as no surprise that Carlos Beltran will be the top outfield name on the market this winter.
He was the hottest trade target prior to July 31, and he'll be the hottest outfield name teams will be bidding to sign.
Beltran re-established himself as an elite hitter in 2011, putting together a final line of .300/.385/.525 (.910 OPS) with 22 homers, 39 doubles and 84 RBI.
He also proved he is still more than capable of contributing in the outfield, and is not necessarily destined for DH duties during the course of his next contract.
The 34-year-old Beltran will likely be rewarded with at least a three year contract this offseason, although he is more likely to ask for four or five years.
San Francisco would love to have him back, but his abilities may be better suited for a hitter friendly ballpark.