B/R MLB Offseason 100: The Top 20 Outfielders Available for 2017
Bleacher Report's stroll through the top 100 players available in the 2016-17 MLB offseason now heads to the outfield.
We have 20 outfielders to get to. Most are part of a deep collection of quality free agents. Others are trade candidates pulled from rumors and/or plausible speculation. They're ranked according to how they fared in the following scoring system:
- Talent Outlook: Out of 70. This is where we look at how guys have performed recently and consider the outlook of their skills going forward. Think of 35 out of 70 as a league-average player and 70 out of 70 as a Mike Trout-like talent.
- Durability Outlook: Out of 20. This is where we probe track records and injury histories for a projection on how guys' bodies will hold up. Think of 10 out of 20 as signaling a toss-up as to whether guys will remain durable, with 20 out of 20 indicating no concerns whatsoever. To keep things fair, we'll allow a ceiling of 15 points for players in line for short-term commitments.
- Value Outlook: Out of 10. This is where we try to project what kind of contract or trade package it's going to take to acquire a guy and then determine if he'd be worth it. Think of five out of 10 as a fair deal, with zero being a megabust and 10 being a megasteal.
In the event of ties, the nod will be given to the player we'd rather sign or trade for.
Now then, let's take it away.
20. Rajai Davis, OF, Free Agent
There's still a slight tremor in the earth from Rajai Davis' home run in Game 7 of the World Series. But it's his legs that have kept him in the majors over the years. Although his 43 steals in 2016 were his first time leading his league, they marked his seventh season out of 11 with at least 30 steals.
Davis, 36, is short on standout tools outside of his speed. But what he lacks in upside he makes up for in dependability. On offense, he hits lefties and can put up an OBP close enough to the league average for government work. On defense, he can play all three outfield positions. He's a rare case of a guy who is only an OK player but is also a very valuable guy to have around.
Why are Davis' legs still working so well in his mid-30s? At least in part because he's never been a true full-time player. He's been spared a lot of wear and tear throughout his career.
There are no guarantees of continued durability at his age. But in what's sure to be a short-term deal, he's as good a bet to stay healthy as a guy his age can be.
Davis' modest $5.25 million salary in 2016 was the highest of his career. And even after leading the league in steals, the league is still likely to view him as a complementary player rather than a star worthy of big bucks.
As such, Davis may only get a slight bump over his 2016 salary. Knowing what he can bring to a team, he's a good value buy waiting to happen.
19. Brandon Moss, OF/1B, Free Agent
After a rough time in 2015, Brandon Moss found himself again in 2016. He OPS'd a solid .784 and cranked 28 homers. Those came courtesy of his raw power and his elite ability to get under the ball. The 33-year-old was versatile, too, logging action at first base and in both corner outfield spots.
Of course, Moss isn't a standout defender at any position. He's also a platoon hitter whose production is further held in check by strikeouts and shifts. It's therefore a good thing for him that teams are always looking for power and that his figures to be some of the more affordable power available on the open market.
After playing in over 145 games each year between 2013 and 2015, Moss was limited to 128 games in 2016 by an ankle sprain that sidelined him for a few weeks.
He doesn't have many other noteworthy injuries on his track record, but that only does so much to ease any concern. Moss is an older player who's racked up quite a bit of mileage in recent years, so there may be more injuries to come.
Moss might have had a shot at a $17.2 million qualifying offer, but his second-half slump nixed that. Not being tied to draft-pick compensation will make it easier for him to get paid.
His age and assorted limitations should limit his prospects to two- or three-year offers. And with big-name boppers like Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Mike Napoli and others set to hog all the money, it's easy to imagine Moss being limited to an affordable per-year rate in the $10 million range.
18. Michael Saunders, LF, Free Agent
Michael Saunders earned himself an All-Star nod in 2016 with a strong first half punctuated by a .923 OPS and 16 home runs. His second-half regression after that was harsh. He managed just a .638 OPS and eight home runs while striking out in 30.4 percent of his plate appearances.
Based on his history, whoever signs Saunders must be ready for the whiffs to continue. But the 29-year-old could still get back on the track he was early in 2016. His whiffs come with plenty of walks, and he's been very good at making hard contact when he's been healthy in the last three seasons. Good defense may not be part of the equation based on the metrics. But, rest assured, the bat is legit.
This is the real question mark for Saunders. He set a career high just by playing in 140 games in 2016. In previous years, he had struggled with shoulder, abdominal and knee injuries.
This isn't the kind of track record you want to see on a guy who's about to hit the big 3-0. Even if a team seeks to downplay these issues by platooning Saunders, they could still crop up.
Saunders will be helped by the fact that he didn't have to tie himself to draft-pick compensation by rejecting a qualifying offer. Even still, he has a complicated sales pitch to make: Who wants a quality hitter who was last seen struggling and who has a crowded injury history?
There's not much precedent for a player like this. That puts me in shrug-and-guess territory. I'll go three years and $10 million per. Saunders would be a good get at that price if he were to stay healthy, but...yeah.
17. Melky Cabrera, LF, Trade
It seems like we don't use the term "professional hitter" much anymore, but that's what Melky Cabrera is. He's been posting above-average batting averages on a regular basis since 2011. That's what you can do when you're an excellent contact hitter with a line-drive stroke.
Cabrera's value is otherwise limited. The 32-year-old doesn't play a good left field and has become more of a station-to-station baserunner. He's good for 10 to 15 home runs, but no more. Nonetheless, teams should be attracted to adding his bat. And it would only be for one year. The three-year, $42 million contract he signed two winters ago is up after 2017.
Cabrera's health took a dark turn in 2013 when he missed time with a left knee strain and needed surgery for a tumor in his back. Since then, the only major injury he's suffered was on a slide.
Considering that Cabrera has been an everyday player since he was 21, this is only so much of a guarantee of future durability. But it's better than nothing.
I'm not buying Sherman's notion that the Chicago White Sox could trade Adam Eaton. Cabrera is more likely to be moved. In a market dominated by expensive power bats, his affordable and consistent bat should attract some suitors.
Cabrera's not the kind of guy who would return a big prospect haul to the White Sox in a trade, so they'd have to mainly be content to offload his salary. If they do so, that would be a low-risk deal that could turn out well for his new team.
16. Josh Reddick, RF, Free Agent
Josh Reddick's big breakout happened in 2012 when he established himself as a quality power hitter and a Gold Glove-caliber right fielder. His power and his defense have since fallen off. He's also wading into the free-agent waters fresh off a rough finish to 2016 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Reddick still has attractive qualities, however. He's become lethal against right-handed pitchers, doing no worse than an .826 OPS against them in the last three seasons. Meanwhile, the 29-year-old's power has been replaced by greater consistency that stems from a much-improved contact habit. And even if his defense is no longer great, it's still good. He's going to be useful in a multiyear deal.
A platoon role doesn't just sound like a good idea for Reddick from a production standpoint. It could also help spare him from his all-too-frequent need for the disabled list. It's largely because of injuries that he's been limited to 115 games or fewer in three of five seasons.
Even if Reddick does land a job as a platoon player, these issues may not be entirely behind him. He will be past age 30, after all. Rarely does life get easier for ballplayers once they get into their 30s.
Reddick might have been a candidate for a qualifying offer, but the trade that sent him from the Oakland A's to the Los Angeles Dodgers nixed that. Not being tied to draft-pick compensation will help him.
What should push back, however, are his platoon splits and the poor numbers he put up in Los Angeles. He could settle for Gerardo Parra money in the three-year, $30 million range. If he were to keep mashing right-handers, he could turn that into a nice little steal.
15. Jose Bautista, RF/DH, Free Agent
Jose Bautista went backward in a number of ways in 2016 even beyond being limited to 116 games (more on that in a moment). He also OPS'd an unspectacular .817 with 22 home runs. The 36-year-old also seems finished as a capable right fielder, posting subpar metrics for a second straight season.
But Bautista should still appeal to teams that need a good bat. He still has superb plate discipline that will allow him to boost his OBP with walks. And while his power did indeed decline in 2016, that's misleading. His 41.0 hard-hit percentage was the best of his career. The market may be crowded with bat-only players, but he's one of the best bat-only players in the game.
Bautista played in over 150 games in 2014 and 2015, but a bad knee got in the way of him continuing his run of durability in 2016.
This makes it three seasons out of five in which Bautista has been taken off the field by injuries. This isn't even counting the bad shoulder that held him back in 2015 and which still seems to be limiting his throwing. As he gets even older, good health won't become any easier for him to find.
Unless he decides $17.2 million for one year sounds pretty good, Bautista will be tied to draft-pick compensation once he rejects his qualifying offer. Then he'll likely be gunning for the four-year, $68 million contract that Victor Martinez got coming off his age-35 season two years ago.
Bautista's rough 2016 and durability questions will get in the way of him matching the length of that deal. But even in a three-year deal, he should still land in that $17 million per-year range. That plus a lost draft pick for a one-dimensional player would be a big price to live up to.
14. Carlos Beltran, RF/DH, Free Agent
Carlos Beltran seemed to have run out of production when he OPS'd just .703 back in 2014. The 39-year-old has since rebounded with an .830 OPS and 48 home runs over the last two seasons.
Of course, Beltran's bat is really all he has anymore. His legs are shot, restricting him to either being a bad right fielder or a good designated hitter. The good news is there aren't any glaring reasons to worry about his bat. He doesn't walk as much as he used to, but is still a good contact hitter who makes quality contact to boot. He should be fine in what's likely to be a one-year deal.
Beltran hasn't had the easiest time staying healthy in recent seasons, but that's only so relevant where 2017 is concerned. He figures to be a primary DH for the first time in his career. That should help him stay healthy in what will be his age-40 season.
The trade that sent Beltran from the New York Yankees to the Texas Rangers blocked him from a qualifying offer. The only things limiting his earning power this winter will be his DH status and the deep collection of fellow DH types on the market.
Nonetheless, don't be surprised if Beltran matches the $16 million that David Ortiz just made in his age-40 season. He's not going to be as good as Ortiz, mind you, but Beltran could be worth that money if he keeps producing.
13. Brett Gardner, LF, Trade
Source: Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors
Brett Gardner is no longer the speed demon he once was, going from a peak of nearly 50 steals in 2010 and 2011 to just 16 in 2016. He's also regressed as a power hitter after making a run at 20 homers in 2014 and 2015. He hit only seven in 2016.
Gardner remains a good guy for on-base percentage and defense. Despite the fact he just won his first Gold Glove, the metrics claim he's played a good left field his whole career. And while his power is gone, he's still a tough out due to his ability to draw walks and his revitalized ability to put the ball in play. Teams should eye the 33-year-old as a good complementary piece to put atop a batting order.
Although Gardner's only DL stint in the last seven seasons came when an elbow injury sidelined him for nearly all of 2012, it sounds like he needed a DL stint with a wrist injury in 2015.
None of this is too concerning as far as his future goes. What's more concerning is the simple fact that he's an older player with a lot of mileage on his body.
Adams is right about Gardner being a reasonable trade target, especially relative to fellow New York Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. The $26 million remaining on Gardner's contract isn't too much.
After their recent purge loaded up the farm system and got the team headed in the right direction, the Yankees would probably have it in mind to trade Gardner for an immediate upgrade. A starting pitcher would do it. As long as it's a modestly talented starter, that would be fine for both sides.
12. Carlos Gonzalez, RF, Trade
Source: Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors
Carlos Gonzalez's athleticism used to stand out as much as his sweet-yet-dangerous swing. That's not the case anymore. He's done stealing bases and has seemingly lost a step in the outfield. It's a good thing the 31-year-old's bat is still going strong, producing an .855 OPS and 25 homers in 2016.
The question interested parties need to answer is if said bat will play away from Coors Field. Gonzalez's career OPS on the road is 233 points lower than his career OPS at home. Since his ability to hit the ball hard will travel fine, it's up to him to start hitting the ball more frequently and overcome his career 24.9 strikeout rate on the road. For what it's worth, the successful post-Coors Field careers of Matt Holliday, Dexter Fowler, Seth Smith and others allow for some optimism.
After a string of injuries limited him to an average of 110 games between 2011 and 2014, it's a minor miracle that Gonzalez has topped 150 games in each of the last two seasons.
Even still, the best hope for Gonzalez's durability is to move to an American League team where he could DH and/or make good on his apparent desire to play first base again. Since a move to an AL team is not a given, his durability for 2017 is best considered a toss-up.
Todd thinks the Colorado Rockies should trade Gonzalez now. He's right. The $20 million he's owed in 2017 is not an immovable figure now, but could become immovable if they wait.
With the Rockies well off in terms of young hitters, they should use a Gonzalez trade to add to their growing stable of young arms. Getting him would likely require a team to either give up a top arm and take less of Gonzalez's salary, or a lesser arm and take on more of his salary. Either way, it would be risking something on a guy who's a roll of the dice outside of Coors Field.
11. Mark Trumbo, OF/1B, Free Agent
Mark Trumbo ran into some hard times in 2014 and 2015. He OPS'd .739 with 36 home runs, numbers not quite good enough to make up for his lack of value elsewhere. But then came 2016, in which he had an .850 OPS and led MLB with 47 home runs.
This proves his power is still legit, but other concerns persist. Trumbo's consistency crumbled in the second half of 2016. The 30-year-old hit just .214 with a .284 OBP. He's not fast, and is without good walk or contact habits. And according to the metrics, he's only a capable defender when he's at first base. The bottom line is that Trumbo's career year didn't make him a better player.
The only real injury scare Trumbo has gotten in his career is when he missed 71 games with a stress fracture in his foot in 2014. He's otherwise been a picture of health.
Whether this can continue will hinge partially on where his next team plays him. He'll age better at first base and/or DH. And given that his outfield defense is no reason to bar him from either position, my guess is that's how he'll be used. His durability will reap the benefits.
Trumbo will surely reject the $17.2 million qualifying offer he got from the Baltimore Orioles. After the year he just had, ties to draft-pick compensation won't block him from a major payday.
A good comp for Trumbo is Nelson Cruz, who got four years and $57 million despite his similarly limited skill set. Trumbo is younger and just as powerful, so an updated version of that deal could be a year longer and/or a couple million per year more expensive. So yeah, he's going to be overpaid.
10. Carlos Gomez, CF, Free Agent
Carlos Gomez was an elite player in 2013 and 2014. Then he was just an OK player in 2015, and a bad enough player early in 2016 to earn his release from the Houston Astros. Then he became a great player again, OPS'ing .905 with eight homers in 33 games with the Texas Rangers.
Gomez was energized and, more importantly, focused with the Rangers. He took better at-bats, cutting down on his swings (48.6 Swing%) and whiffs (11.4 SwStr%). He also made better contact, lowering his soft-hit rate and raising his hard-hit rate. What happened with the Rangers looks like the start of a more cerebral phase of the 30-year-old's career, and it looks good.
Here's some solid evidence that Gomez is past his physical prime: He's needed the disabled list in each of the last two seasons, limiting him to a total of 233 games.
Even before this, Gomez wasn't especially durable. He hasn't played in over 150 games since 2008. Now you wonder if he can be counted on to get there again.
Teams are going to be wary of buying into Gomez's small-sample-size success with the Rangers. But in a market dominated by one-dimensional sluggers, he should draw a crowd.
Denard Span got a three-year, $31 million deal last winter despite questions about his health and productivity. Gomez could land in that range. If his stint with the Rangers was indeed a new beginning, he could be the bargain buy of the winter.
9. Justin Upton, LF, Trade
Source: Buster Olney of ESPN.com
Justin Upton's first season in Detroit was a disaster right up until the end. He OPS'd 1.160 with 18 homers in his final 37 games, boosting his final OPS to .775 and matching his career high with 31 home runs. All told, another successful season for the 29-year-old.
However, that Upton needed that torrid final stretch is a reminder of how streaky he is. That's life when a player either hits the ball hard or doesn't hit it at all. Elsewhere, he's become noticeably thicker over the years and has slowed down on the basepaths and, per the metrics, on defense. He remains a solid player now, but it's hard to be optimistic about his immediate and long-term future.
This is an area where Upton has been doing just fine. He's averaged 152 games per season since 2011. Going back even further, his last trip to the disabled list was in 2009.
There have been many minor aches and pains along the way, however. And while Upton is still a year south of the big 3-0, he has mileage worthy of a guy in his mid-30s. Remember, he debuted in his age-19 season. As good as his track record is, it may only promise so much durability.
If Olney is right about Upton being one of many Tigers stars on the block this winter, he figures to be the hardest to move. His value isn't sky-high coming off his up-and-down 2016. There's also $110.6 million remaining on his contract.
The best the Tigers can hope for is a bad contract swap that would save them some money. Upton's new team would be glad it did that if his 2016 season looked like an aberration. But from my view, it's likely the start of Upton's new normal.
8. Marcell Ozuna, CF, Trade
On the surface, Marcell Ozuna's 2016 season was a return to the form of his breakout 2014 season. He OPS'd .773 after struggling with a .691 OPS in 2015. He was especially good with an .892 OPS in the first half, which earned him his first All-Star nod.
Then the breaking balls came. That was a way for pitchers to exploit Ozuna's tendency to swing and miss and downplay his ability to make hard contact. Elsewhere, he's not an especially productive baserunner and the metrics confirm his defensive value is tied to his arm. Talented as he is, teams should be wary about his ability to translate his talent into results in his final three years of club control.
Ozuna had some injury trouble earlier in his career, including a series of injuries that mangled his left arm between 2010 and 2013.
But in the last three seasons, Ozuna has largely avoided trouble with the injury bug. This is a good way for him to head into what will only be his age-26 season in 2017.
According to Jackson, the Miami Marlins would prefer not to trade Ozuna as part of their effort to rebuild their rotation in the wake of Jose Fernandez's tragic death. But between his talent, his youth and his controllability, he may be the best trade chip they have to do so.
A good guess is that Ozuna would bring back either an established starter with a similar amount of club control or a younger starter who's less established but with more upside. Either way, a team would be taking a chance on a player who could have trouble living up to his All-Star reputation.
7. Andrew McCutchen, CF, Trade
Source: Rob Biertempfel of TribLive.com
Andrew McCutchen's run of brilliance finally ended in 2016. After averaging a .926 OPS with 25 homers and 19 steals over the four previous seasons, he OPS'd just .766 with 24 homers and six steals. Per the metrics, his defense in center field went from questionable to begin with to downright awful.
McCutchen is past 30 now and has been struggling to be himself ever since he opened 2015 with a bad left knee. That's the kind of thing that would affect his defense. Meanwhile, his strikeout rate is trending up and both his soft-hit and hard-hit percentages got worse in 2016. These are real red flags that should have teams wondering whether he's still a superstar.
Staying on the field is one thing McCutchen hasn't struggled with in the last two seasons. He's played in 310 total games, bringing his per-season average since 2010 to 155 games.
That is a lot of mileage, however. Paired with suspicions about his knee, there is a question of how much longer McCutchen can keep this up in the last year or two (depending on his 2018 option) of his contract.
McCutchen's value may be down, but not enough to make the max of $28.75 million he'll be paid over the next two seasons sound outrageous. He's far from immovable.
The bigger difficulty is his price tag. The Pittsburgh Pirates are not in a position to rebuild. Rather, they need starting pitching to keep contending. Moving McCutchen could be just the ticket they need to avoid taking chances on a thin free-agent market. And given McCutchen's reputation, he could probably bring back a talented starter with some control left. A high price for a roll of the dice.
6. Ryan Braun, LF, Trade
Source: Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors
Things were bleak for Ryan Braun in 2013 and 2014. He was suspended as part of the Biogenesis investigation in 2013 and came back from that to post a career-low .777 OPS in 2014. But it turns out the end was not nigh. Braun has OPS'd .879 with 55 homers and 40 steals over the last two seasons.
Good stuff for a guy who's about to turn 33, and a solid promise that he can live up to a contract that has four years and $80 million remaining on it. His age means there's some built-in doubt about his future, but none of his individual talents are really aging poorly. His decline should be slow and steady rather than quick and painful.
Braun's talent is aging well. His durability? Less so. He's averaged 137 games over the last three seasons, struggling with assorted aches and pains that have required frequent breathers.
At his age and with so much mileage on him, it's fair to assume more of the same is in store for Braun.
The Brewers would no doubt prefer to move Braun in a market with fewer quality outfielders on it. Nonetheless, they would be wise to move the veteran now before his value has a chance to drop.
Nobody should give up on the Braun-for-Yasiel Puig swap that was supposedly on the table in August. Even if that doesn't come about, it's a window into what a Braun trade would look like: He and his contract would leave, and young talent and a bad contract would come back. It's a good thing he figures to age well, as such a deal would involve some risk for the acquiring team.
5. Ian Desmond, CF/LF, Free Agent
After a rough 2015 killed his free-agent value, Ian Desmond needed a rebound season in 2016 in the worst way. He got it. He OPS'd .782 with 22 home runs and 21 stolen bases. And despite bad defensive metrics, his transition from shortstop to the outfield was largely successful.
The elephant in the room is that Desmond's great year was only a great half. He went from an .899 OPS in the first half to a .630 OPS in the second half. Teams can nonetheless focus on how the 31-year-old's athleticism is aging well, and on how he made strides at the plate by cutting down his strikeout rate. Despite his inconsistencies, he's a quality all-around talent who will be paid well.
Desmond had to go on the disabled list with an oblique strain in 2012. I bring this up only because it remains the only DL stint of his major league career. He's otherwise topped 150 games in six of the last seven seasons.
To repeat a familiar refrain, Desmond is old and well-traveled enough that his past durability is no guarantee of future durability. But if nothing else, it does bode well for a long-term deal.
Desmond is surely going to reject the $17.2 million qualifying offer the Texas Rangers made him and head out onto the open market. He'll no doubt be looking for a $100 million contract after blowing a chance at one two years ago.
The market could treat him more like Alex Gordon, who signed for $72 million over four years last winter. Even still, a four- to five-year deal worth roughly $20 million a pop is in store. That plus a lost draft pick is a huge price to pay for player who's not known for consistency.
4. Dexter Fowler, CF, Free Agent
Dexter Fowler didn't get what he wanted in free agency last winter, so he went back to the Chicago Cubs and had an even better year in 2016. He put up a .393 OBP with 13 homers and 13 stolen bases in the regular season. He added three more dingers in the postseason.
At 30 years old, Fowler is past his physical prime. But he's aging well thanks to what's between his ears. He's always had a smart approach at the plate, working counts and drawing plenty of walks. His 13 steals in 2016 only scratch the surface of his baserunning value. And by playing deeper in center field, he earned solid metrics for a change. I'd say he's now an underrated all-around talent.
The one thing Fowler did in 2015 that he couldn't in 2016 was stay healthy and play in over 150 games. A hamstring strain helped limit him to 125 games this season.
This is a trend. Fowler has been an everyday player since 2009, but has averaged just 131 games per season in this span. At his age, that number is unlikely to go up in a long-term contract.
Rejecting a qualifying offer from the Cubs didn't work out last winter. But that won't stop Fowler from doing it again this winter, and this time it should work out in his favor.
Melky Cabrera—a fellow quality top-of-the-order, switch-hitting outfielder—got $14 million per year in a three-year deal two winters ago. Fowler could get that with an extra year and a few million per year. That plus a lost draft pick is a big price. Good thing he's a good player.
3. J.D. Martinez, RF, Trade
Source: Buster Olney of ESPN.com
J.D. Martinez is proof that a top-to-bottom swing change can work wonders. He's gone from an afterthought with the Houston Astros to a guy with an .898 OPS and 83 home runs in three seasons in Detroit. The metrics aren't sure about his glove, but his bat has been legit.
The big flaw with Martinez's bat is the rate at which he strikes out. He has just the things to downplay that, though. One is improving plate discipline that's driving up his walk rate. The other is hard contact. The only active player with a better hard-contact percentage since 2014 is Giancarlo Stanton. All things point to a hitter still on the rise as he heads into his walk year in 2017.
Injuries contributed to Martinez's exit from Houston, as he landed on the DL twice in 2013. This past season, an elbow injury limited him to 120 games.
His latest injury isn't one to fret over too much. It happened when he crashed into a wall. Unlike basic wear and tear, that can be avoided. And at 29 with relatively little major league action in his past, he's not at high risk of being felled by wear and tear in his last season before free agency.
Of all the Tigers singled out by Olney as trade bait, Martinez is arguably the most attractive. He's still young and will be paid a reasonable $11.75 million in 2017. He's obviously a talented hitter to boot.
The Tigers could deal Martinez's walk year for a basket of prospects, a la the Justin Upton trade from two winters ago. They could also go for one or two established players with controllability and upside. Either way, a team won't rob the Tigers blind in a Martinez deal.
2. Charlie Blackmon, CF, Trade
Source: Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors
Charlie Blackmon was an All-Star in 2014, but it wasn't until this year that he became a true star. He OPS'd .933 with outstanding production at and away from Coors Field. He also made it three straight seasons with double-digit homers (29) and steals (17). Per the metrics, only good defense was missing.
Now 30 years old, Blackmon may not have any more upside to tap into. What's there is legit, however. He's a good contact hitter who's getting better at making hard contact. And because he didn't start playing regularly until 2014, his athleticism should age well. All this ought to sound good for teams that want to trade for his last two seasons of club control.
Along with his defense, Blackmon's durability is another thing that didn't have a great year in 2016. He had to go on the disabled list with turf toe, limiting him to 143 games.
Teams should be a little wary of the fact this was the second time Blackmon has battled turf toe in his career. All the same, they should focus more on how he's played in over 140 games in three straight seasons and how he wasn't overworked before then.
Todd is right about Blackmon being the most appealing trade candidate in the Colorado Rockies' outfield. He's talented and relatively affordable in the next two years.
Since the Rockies have enough young bats, a trade of Blackmon would have to bring back some young arms. They would have to be good young arms, too. No small asking price for a guy a team would only have for the next two years.
1. Yoenis Cespedes, LF, Free Agent
Yoenis Cespedes' outburst from 2015 carried over into 2016. His power stayed the same, and perhaps should have been even better in light of his never-better hard-hit rate. He also took his walks for a change. And while he struggled in center field, it's not to be overlooked how well he rated in left field.
All this leaves just two concerns. One is Cespedes' consistency, or lack thereof. There are times when he becomes invisible at the plate and visible in a bad way in the field. And now that he's 31, there is the question of how much longer he'll remain such a gifted athlete. All the same, teams will get the message they didn't get last winter: He's worth taking a chance on in free agency.
Cespedes played in over 150 games in 2014 and 2015, but was limited to 132 games by a bothersome quad in 2016. That required the third trip to the disabled list of his career.
Even when Cespedes is "healthy," he never seems to be healthy. Not many players specialize in nagging injuries like he does. At his age, you have to wonder whether said nagging injuries will start becoming more serious.
Cespedes was barred from getting a qualifying offer last winter. Not this time. Once he rejects that, he'll be tied to draft-pick compensation that will hinder his market.
He should still do better than the three-year, $75 million contract he just opted out of. Teams will no doubt still have some reservations, but probably not enough to block him from $25 million per year in a four- to five-year contract. That plus a lost draft pick will be a lot to pay for an unpredictable player.