Free agency is set to kick off any day now. Once the World Series is over there is a 5-day period in which impending free agents are only allowed to negotiate with the team that they last played for. After those five days are up, they can then talk to anyone and everyone that they’d like to. This is also the day in which teams must decide if they will or will not pick up options on players who have them for the following season.
The Cincinnati Reds, as currently constructed, project for the 2020 season according to ZiPS to be in that 82-85 win range. That’s a good place to start as was noted over the weekend. But it’s also not likely to be enough to make the playoffs. And that is the Reds stated goal for 2020 – as it should be. They’ve reportedly got plenty of money to spend, too.
We’ve already taken a look at options behind the plate. And we’ve already looked at some options in the middle infield, too. Today we’re going to venture into the grass at Great American Ballpark and look at the crop of outfielders in free agency to see if anyone makes sense for Cincinnati.
Before we do that, though, let’s talk a little bit about the Reds outfield. Looking forward, if no moves are made at all, it would seem that the outfield would see Jesse Winker/Phillip Ervin platooning in left field, Nick Senzel in center, and Aristides Aquino in right. As noted yesterday with the middle infield article – Senzel can move to second base if the Reds can find the right center fielder via free agency or trade. In both corners there are things to like, but there are reasons you should also be looking to try and upgrade, too. Essentially, the entire outfield should be looked at for one reason or another.
The corner outfield options for the Reds
If the Cincinnati Reds are looking to add a corner outfielder there may be a few options for them to look into. You can see all of the free agents that are available at MLB Trade Rumors, but we’re just going to focus on the ones that feel like they could be actual options.
Among the options available for the corner outfield it was someone who was an afterthought before the season began that had the best OPS of the bunch: Hunter Pence. The man with a wonderful youtube channel that he and his wife run was named the American League Comeback Player of the Year after hitting .297/.358/.552 for the Texas Rangers in 2019. He only played in 83 games, and he’s going to be 37-years-old next season – which you will always have to worry about. But the right-handed hitter raked last season and could provide a big offensive upgrade if he could come close to repeating that performance.
Another player who didn’t play an entire season, but hit well when he was healthy and on the field is Corey Dickerson. He’s younger than Pence and will not turn 31 until the end of May. Splitting time between the two teams in the state of Pennsylvania he hit .304/.341/.565 with 42 extra-base hits in just 78 games played. He missed five weeks early in the season, then missed most of September with a broken foot.
Among the guys who did play every day it’s Nicholas Castellanos at the top of the OPS chart. He hit .289/.337/.525 in 2019 between Detroit and Chicago. But it was what he did with the Cubs that may get him PAID. In 225 plate appearances after getting out of the cavernous part in Detroit he hit .321/.356/.646. He led Major League Baseball with 58 doubles while also adding in three triples and 27 homers between his two stops. Castellanos can hit, and he can hit well. But he’s also among the worst fielding outfielders in baseball, too.
Brett Gardner isn’t young these days – he turned 36 at the end of the 2019 season. But he can still play. With the Yankees in 2019 he hit .251/.325/.503 with 28 home runs. Among the corner outfield group his 3.6 WAR led the way by a decent margin, too. He’s a well rounded player who doesn’t have one aspect stick out necessarily, but he’s good at just about everything.
The Reds have already been rumored to be interested, sort of, in Marcell Ozuna. He’ll turn 29 in less than two weeks. After an explosive 2017 season with the Marlins where he posted a .924 OPS he’s taken a step back the last two seasons. In 2019 he played in 130 games and hit .241/.328/.472 for the Cardinals. But as was noted in the previously linked article, his BABIP was far lower than it’s ever been before and if it were normal his numbers would have been significantly higher. There’s a decent chance he’ll hit better next year with just a normal BABIP.
Avisail Garcia has always been a guy lauded for his ability to hit, even though the numbers didn’t always back up that claim. His career has been inconsistent. He hit .245 with a .692 OPS in 2016. Then he hit .330 with an .885 OPS in 2017. That was followed up with a .236 average and a .719 OPS in 2018. Things were back up in 2019 when he hit .282/.332/.463 in 125 games played. He won’t turn 29 until the middle of June, so he’s got age on his side. But he’s also one of those low-walk, decent strikeout guys who is prone to having his season’s offense be very dependent on his ability to have a high BABIP.
You didn’t think I would go through this article and not bring up Yasiel Puig, right? Well, the Reds are familiar with him. But he struggled with Cincinnati in 100 games this year, hitting just .252/.302/.475 for the Reds. The power was definitely there, but the other numbers weren’t. When he was traded to Cleveland the average and on-base percentage picked up bi big ways, but the power fell off, too. Overall he hit .267/.327/.458 in 149 games. I don’t want to dive into this one much more – you’re all well aware of what he brings.
Here’s a wild card for you: Lonnie Chisenhall. He missed all of 2019 with several injuries. And in 2018 he only played in a handful of games, too. But in 2017 when he was last healthy he hit .288/.360/.521 in 270 plate appearances. He’ll be 31-years-old next season.
The author of this article seemed to forget to include the two Japanese players who could come to the US this offseason. Fortunately he wrote about them a week ago. Shogo Akiyama has a chance to play center field, and if the scouts believe he can still handle the position for the time being – he could be an option for the Reds. Yoshitomo Tsutsugo is more of a corner outfielder at best, though he probably fits in more as a designated hitter type for an American League team. You can read more about both of them at the link below.
The center field options for the Reds
There really aren’t many options in free agency for center field. The one option that could be there is Cameron Maybin. Most of his career has been spent playing center field (863 games), but not much of that happened in 2019 when he only played in three games in center. He’s still a well above-average runner according to Statcast sprint speed. That doesn’t necessarily mean he can handle center field anymore. But given his vast experience there, the odds are he could probably still handle the position defensively.
Maybin only played in 82 games this season. And they call came with the Yankees where he hit .285/.364/.494 with 30 walks and 72 strikeouts. The previous two seasons he hit .237/.322/.351 – so there’s certainly some questions about what you can expect out of him.