2017 Reds

Which free-agent outfielders make sense for the Reds?

The Reds aren’t going to make any big splashes in free agency during the offseason, but it sounds like we shouldn’t expect them to be as quiet as they were last winter, either. After taking the reigns from Walt Jocketty after the 2016 regular season concluded, general manager Dick Williams has been candid about the team’s needs.

Along with bullpen arms and a starting pitcher to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation, Williams said finding a right-handed outfielder to add to his bench is on his to-do list, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer’s C. Trent Rosecrans.

It’s fair to question why the Reds would target a bench bat. As Steve Mancuso pointed out on Monday, the Reds’ main goal should be focusing on the future and allowing the young kids to play this season. Williams seems to agree with this, however, so perhaps any free agent they sign shouldn’t expect a ton of playing time. Per Rosecrans’ article:

“Our major questions are more about which young players are ready to step up, and the good news is we have numbers in that area,” Williams said. “It’ll be fun to see who grabs the opportunity.”

That being said, the Reds don’t have a ton of big-league ready depth behind Adam Duvall, Billy Hamilton, and Scott Schebler right now — at least until Jesse Winker is ready. You have to figure Steve Selsky and Patrick Kivlehan — a late season waiver addition — are going to have a shot to win the fourth outfield spot out of spring training, but there aren’t many others ready to compete for that position yet. Former highly touted prospects Yorman Rodriguez and Kyle Waldrop were probably the most likely candidates; however, they both opted for minor-league free agency after being outrighted to Triple-A Louisville. First-round draft pick Phil Ervin is getting closer to the big leagues and could start at Triple-A in 2017, but most scouting reports indicate he’s still got some work to do before making it to The Show.

Whoever the Reds opt to bring in, they’ll likely be looking for someone who brings pop. The club didn’t hit a single pinch-hit home run last season, one of only four teams (along with the Royals, White Sox, and Rangers — three American League clubs who don’t use pinch hitters nearly as much) to pull that off.

Here are the home run totals for the Reds’ bench players last season:

Player HRs
Jose Peraza 3
Ramon Cabrera 3
Steve Selsky 2
Ivan De Jesus Jr. 1
Hernan Iribarren 0
Tyler Holt 0
Tony Renda 0
Kyle Waldrop 0
Jordan Pacheco 0
Total 9

That’s it. Nine home runs from the bench. So with few answers in the outfield — at least to begin the 2017 campaign — it’s not the worst idea to bring in some competition to spring training.

Here are some free agents the Reds could target in the coming weeks and months:

Yoenis Cespedes

Okay, just kidding.

Yorman Rodriguez

2016 Stats (High-A Daytona): .346/.370/.385, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 123 wRC+

Bringing back a familiar face in Rodriguez seems to make a lot of sense for the Reds, if he’s willing to return. He’s a right-handed hitting outfielder, he’s still just 24 years old, and giving him playing time would make more sense for a rebuilding team than allowing a 30-year-old veteran to accumulate 200 plate appearances.

The team took a risk by designating the talented outfielder for assignment on Oct. 28. While he snuck through waivers, he still elected to become a minor-league free agent. If he proves to be healthy, there will certainly be plenty of teams vying for his services, as he’s still young and has plenty of untapped potential. Perhaps his familiarity with the Reds will give them a leg up on other teams. After all, it is the only organization he’s known since signing as a 16-year-old.

Rodriguez has never quite lived up to his potential, but he has improved every year. Scouts have raved about his raw power, and with a reliable glove, an elite arm, and slightly above-average speed, he has the makings of a solid fourth outfielder. The questions will be about his health and whether he’s ready for a fresh start with another team.

Austin Jackson

2016 Stats (White Sox): .254/.318/.343, 0 HR, 18 RBI, 79 wRC+, -0.1 fWAR

Jackson is a potential buy-low candidate after struggling in his only season in the south side of Chicago. He didn’t get much going through 54 games and his season ended prematurely in June due to a torn left meniscus. While he wouldn’t be a huge power threat coming off the bench, he has shown decent pop in the past, averaging 10 home runs per season between 2011 and 2015. He also brings some speed to the table, with 108 career steals and a 17.9 baserunning rating, according to Fangraphs. Jackson’s defense in center field has dropped off a bit in recent years, but he rated out much better while playing the corner outfield spots with the Cubs in 2015.

While he has the makings of a fourth outfielder, a couple of things may work against the Reds. Several teams will likely be interested in signing him and he’ll only be 30 years old when the 2017 begins, so will he want to come to a rebuilding team where he’s unlikely to get many starts? And will he accept a bench role? After all, he was the starting center fielder for the White Sox before his injury. He’s probably on the lower end of candidates for the Reds to sign.

Jeff Francoeur

2016 Stats (Braves/Marlins): .254/.297/.378, 7 HR, 34 RBI, 77 wRC+, 0.2 fWAR

It seems like Francoeur is about 50 years old now, but he’s still just 33. Like he has for most of his career, he’ll be looking to find a bench spot with another team in 2017. He’s not a flashy player in the slightest, as he still strikes out a lot (27.2 K% in 2016) and doesn’t walk much (6.0 BB%). However, he does bring some power (160 career home runs). In the field, he’s still got a cannon for an arm and had a resurgence in right field last season, with seven defensive runs saved and a 4.1 ultimate zone rating (10.5 UZR/150). His defense in left field, where he spent most of his time, was mediocre to slightly above average, as DRS (5) was more kind to him than UZR (0.0).

Francoeur is pretty much the definition of a replacement level player, but at the very least, he’d give the Reds a power option off the bench. And who knows, maybe he plays well enough that the Reds could flip him in a trade like the Braves did in August.

Franklin Gutierrez

2016 Stats (Mariners): .246/.329/.452, 14 HR, 39 RBI, 114 wRC+, 0.6 fWAR

Since he’s played most of his career in the American League, mostly out west in Seattle, many Reds fans are probably unfamiliar with Gutierrez. Let’s jog your memory a bit:

This came against the Reds on May 21 — a 473-blast that went down as the eighth-longest home run of the 2016 season and one of the furthest in the history of Great American Ball Park.

Gutierrez is no longer a defensive whiz, sporting an average glove in left field and a poor one in right. But he’s prolonged his career by providing power off the bench for the Mariners, hitting 29 home runs in 472 plate appearances over the last two seasons. The 33-year-old crushed the ball in 2016, with an average exit velocity of 92.9 mph (the MLB average was 89.1 mph). His on-base skills have traditionally been subpar, but he’s set new career-highs in walk rate in each of the last two years, including a 10.2 BB% in 2016.

Selling out for power has also resulted in a sharp spike in strikeouts for Gutierrez, as he punched out in a staggering 30 percent of his plate appearances last season. Injuries have also been a problem, as he played just 82 games between 2012 and 2014. All in all, with renewed health and a change in plate approach, he has revived his career, posting a 167 wRC+ in 2015 and 114 in 2016. For a bench player, that production will work just fine, though that means he’ll have several suitors.

Conclusions:

There aren’t many free agent outfielders who make a ton of sense for the Reds — especially those who hit from the right side of the plate. In the team’s current state, Rodriguez may be the best fit if he’s healthy and the club is able to re-sign him, but the list of major-league outfielders on the market consists mostly of players 30 or older. On a rebuilding team, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to sign players like that. Perhaps the Reds give someone like Drew Stubbs a chance on a minor-league deal or make another low-key signing. Whoever the Reds go after, it will likely be someone who can hit an occasional home run and potentially be flipped before the trade deadline when Winker is ready.

Or maybe they’ll just bring back Tyler Holt as their backup outfielder/closer.

36 thoughts on “Which free-agent outfielders make sense for the Reds?

  1. I don’t think anyone makes sense. Anything more than a minor league contract for someone at this point is a waste.

    • How is he still around? He could be the worst player that gets regular playing time in the last 20 years.

      • Yeah, really! He’s been basically a replacement-level player since 2008. Maybe he’s a good clubhouse guy or something? Seems odd why he keeps getting paid, rather than teams just getting a random AAAA type player.

        • He did have a really good throwing arm. But who knows these days.

          Francouer. Really, no thanks.

  2. Take the trade route. Trade for the re-building Chicago WhiteSox OF Adam Eaton. Adam & Adam on the corner OF spots for the Reds.

    • Is Eaton available? What do you think it would take to lodge him away from the ChiSox?

      • Yes, if the White Sox are going into re-build mode. From what I read out of the Chicago White Sox blogs is that their GM Greg Hahn is listening on all players. Most of the attention is on Sale and Quintana, the starting pitchers. But the Reds could sneak in early and strike a deal before the attention turns to Eaton. He’ll be 28 next year, he is owed $4M in ’17, $6M in ’18, $8.4 in ’19, and team options in ’20 for $9.5M and ’21 for $10.5M with $15M buyouts for each option year. He is under team control for 3-5 years. That is 3 years and $18.4M owed plus 2 b/o years at $1.5M each for $21.4M owed. Or 4 years at $27.9M + $1.5M b/o = $29.4M. Or 5 years at $38.4M total, for an Avg. Annual Salary of $7.7M. Very doable for both teams, one entering re-build salary purge mode and one exiting re-build mode.
        What to give up? It won’t be cheap. Duvall or Schebler, R. Stephenson, and Phillip Ervin. The Reds should be able to put a very attractive package together.

  3. Michael Saunders.

    Not good defensively, but 24 HR and 70 RBI for the Blue Jays. Turns 30 this month.

    2016 All-Star, but faded in second half. He says he wants to return to Toronto, but the Jays are seemingly “in” on every free agent outfielder.

    Worth seeing if he would be interested in a 2/3 year reasonable deal to allow him to provide power as a bridge guy for the Reds, or restore his value and be flipped to a contender.

  4. Not very high on YRod for this role because durability is important in a bench player; and, he is sorely lacking there.

    They’ve stuck with Selsky on the 40 man to date. If he makes the final pre-Rule 5 pare down later this week, he’s likely their guy unless somebody else drops into their lap.]

    • I think Selsky is 1 of the 2 utility OF to begin the 2017 season and I’m more than OK with that arrangement. Let’s see what Selsky can do over a full season at the major league level in a utility role. That still leaves 1 utility OF position open though and I really don’t want to see Winker in a utility role while the Duvall & Schebler issues are resolved, so that leaves the 5th OF position up in the air. Y-Rod or Kivlehan could be a cost-effective options, but I don’t think either player would succeed at the MLB level. Beau Amaral would provide CF defense as a utility OF, but I have even less confidence in his ability to succeed at the MLB level. I would like to see the Reds resign Iribarren to pair with Selsky as a utility OF.

      • Even though the commentariat here is generally down on Selsky, he at least has shown me he has a good fundamental approach to hitting. He knows his limits and hits the ball where it is pitched. As a “fourth” outfielder, I would prefer him to some of the other marginal FA’s mentioned.

        • looking at the stats the only difference between Selsky and Winker is age. If you can’t get excited about Selsky don’t get excited for Winker either.

        • Jesse Winker walks more, strikes out less and has historically hit for more power – all while being significantly younger.

          There’s zero comparison between the two players, really. Age matters a whole lot when it comes to “excitement”. Younger = more room to grow.

  5. Dexter Fowler on a four year deal, hitting just in front of Votto. Trade Duvall when an offer comes along. Winker marinates in L’ville until he has an opening in left. He competes with Schebler for playing time going forward. Fowler and Schebler, along with Peraza, as insurance for Hamilton in center. Mesoraco gets sporadic time in left and first to get ABs while testing out his health behind the plate.

    • Why would you pay Fowler 15-18X’s what you need to pay Billy Hamilton for what will likely be about the same production? Fowler had a very nice year….while playing on a 1 year deal and surrounded by great players. Difficult to believe he’s the same player on the Reds with a lot of security.

      When you have Schwarber, Zobrist, Rizzo and Bryant hitting behind you….and you’re playing with a lead 65% of the time you’re going to be given something to hit. He’s a nice player,but not worth 15-20% of the payroll.

      • Votto would be hitting behind Fowler; I’d think that he’d see pretty good pitches!
        Personally, I think Fowler’s floor going forward is a 2-win player, with a ceiling of near 5. If you can get him for 4-years/65mil., the Reds should jump at signing him. Phillips’ salary comes off the books, and a high OBP guy in front of Votto is what this team needs most sorely.

  6. Don’t think the FO should sign any FAs. If the Reds decide to go with 12 or 13 pitchers is the key. Carrying a 5th position player vs. an 8th reliever. Also depends if they can move Cozart, BP or both. Ideally, they move both. Assuming they can move both and they carry an 8th reliever, bench spots should go to Barnhart, Selsky, Renda and Alcantara. I think this is the best scenario until Winker is cleared of super 2 status and joins the Reds. Then, one of Selsky, Renda or Alcantara gets sent back to Louisville and Schebler goes to the bench. He provides the pop off the bench when not starting. Ideally, rotate Duvall, Schebler and Winker into the starting lineup based on pitching matchups. If they decide to keep only 12 pitchers, then a reliever would be sent down when Winker joins the Reds. Bench would then be Barnhart, Renda, Selsky, Alcantara and Schebler. BHam, Peraza, JV, Duvall, Schebler or Winker, Mes, Suarez, Herrera, P seems like a pretty solid lineup

    • Okay, now that’s pretty good. Michael can hit and run. And he did still want to be a position player when he was drafted.
      And now, starting in left field…. Lorenzen. Michael Lorenzen.

      And he could double switch from LF to pitching and back again. Pretty neat, huh?

      • Fun to speculate about Lorenzen, but he hasn’t proven that he can, on a regular basis, hit major league pitching.

  7. In answer to the question:

    Which free agent outfielders make sense for the Reds?

    None.

    Let the kids play.

    • I agree. The more I looked at the list of free agents, the more I realized none of them made sense for the Reds. But since they’re apparently looking at outfielders, I thought it would at least be interesting to write something up.

  8. Sean Rodriguez
    super utility
    might be trying to get everyday player money this offseason though

  9. Agree with “None, let the kids play.” Save the money and spend it in the draft or on a potential sign (pitcher or bullpen piece) and then trade for more prospects at the trade deadline. Test Selsky. 800+ ops in minor league career, not a great defensive player. Perfect bench player it appears at this point. Then either kivelhan or whoever cheap than can waiver wire claim or swap onto 40 man roster in the rule 5 draft. I’m not sure who would come off but they need to be “opportunistic” with anyone that might fall off another roster.

    • Forgot to add that play duvall and schebler until they prove otherwise as the regulars. Let Winker get fully healthy and raise his power numbers before calling him up.

    • Because Suarez is a better player? Alonso not much of an OF and that’s what we’re talking about here. I would bet that if it came down to that Suarez would be a better OF and a better hitter.

  10. no Alonzo. he can only play first defensively, and we have j v for that I’d much rather have Suarez. He’s younger, cheaper and can play second,’ third and left field.

  11. What about adding a young outfielder via trade instead of free agency.

    Offer the Yankees some of our young pitching in exchange for Clint Frazier or Aaron Judge. If they want someone that is proven in the MLB I wouldn’t hesitate to offer DeSclafani. If they want the potential higher upside of Stephenson or Garrett I’d do that too.

    If they would trade Frazier to us the roster could look something like this starting the second half of 2017:
    C: Barnhart and Mes or ?
    1B: Votto
    2B: Herrera
    SS: Peraza
    3B: Suarez (hopefully Senzel if/when he is ready)
    LF: Winker
    CF: Hamilton
    RF: Frazier (can back up Hamilton in CF)

    OF: Schebler
    Util: Duvall (LF, RF, 3B, 1B)
    Util: Suarez (3B, SS, 2B)
    C: Barnhart, Mesoraco or ?

    Pitching staff consists of:
    Bailey, Finnegan, Reed, Straily, Iglesias, Lorenzen, Rookie Davis, and whoever isn’t traded from the DeSclafani/Stephenson/Garrett trio

    Fill in the rest of the bullpen and that is a team I wouldn’t mind moving forward with.

    • They couldn’t even get a prospect that good when they were offering Chapman. Yankees are never doing that.

      • I don’t know if the Yankees would do anything like this trade or not. I’m also not suggesting that the trade have to necessarily be one of those pitchers for Frazier straight up.

        I think comparing this situation to when the Reds traded Chapman isn’t really a good comparison.

        Chapman is arguably the top relief pitcher in the game. But as a reliever was going to give the Yankees about 3 WAR in 60 innings during the 1-year of team control he had remaining with a cost of $11.3 million for that year. He was also in the middle of his domestic violence case with an unknown as to what the suspension would be.

        DeSclafani would potentially be giving the Yankees 3 WAR in 200 innings per year. He would be doing it for league minimum pay in 2017 before starting arbitration in 2018 (4 total years of control remaining).

        So Disco would provide the same annual WAR for much less money and have 3 extra years of team control.

        When the Yankess traded Chapman to the Cubs they received Gleyber Torres in return, MLB.com’s #17 overall prospect. For comparison Clint Frazier is #15 and Aaron Judge is #22.

        Again not a perfect comparison because Chapman was traded that time at the trade deadline and teams have different levels of motivation at the deadline and during the off season. Still the Yankees received the #17 ranked prospect for 2 months of Chapman. The Reds would be asking for the #15 or #22 prospect in exchange for 4 years of DeSclafani.

        • I still don’t understand the urge to trade DeSclafani. He’s young, relatively cheap, nearly proven, and probably still getting better. The same cannot be said for any other Reds pitcher, and the fact that the Reds need more hitting doesn’t mean that they don’t need pitching.

        • It’s not so much an urge to trade DeSclafani as an urge to improve our offense, particularly in the outfield. If the Yankees could be sold on taking Straily in exchange for Frazier or Judge, I would do that trade in a heartbeat. I just don’t believe that any team would give us the quality of player we want in exchange for Straily. If they would want to trade prospect for prospect and ask for Stephenson or Garrett, I would consider that too.
          Bottom line is I think the Reds should look to improve their outfield and still have the potential depth in the pitching staff to trade from to get it.

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