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.

Updated

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.

Could the Reds finally land a Japanese player? 2020 provides options

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.

35 Responses

  1. Cbus

    Yes to Castellanos or to Dickerson. No to everyone else, they are to inconsistent and not guaranteed to be better than what you already have.

    • Mike

      Thumbs up!!! Those two would be my choices also….

      • lost11found

        I’d be good with this as well and would favor Dickerson over Nick C. by a narrow margin.

      • Bob Purkey

        I know this is “piling on” to what the above comments are here, but YES to Castellanos or Dickerson! If you still think Winker has a ton of upside, you keep him, if not trade him. I would still think that there a a number of teams that would have interest in him.

    • JB

      Totally agree. Castellanos defense is one of the worst? Cant be any worse than Winker, Vanmeter or Ervin and Castellanos is way better hitter than all 3 .

    • Doc

      I read throughout much of the season how bad the defense deficiencies were of the outfielders we have. Now we have a “piling on” of people wanting to acquire the reportedly worst, or one of the worst, defensive outfielders in baseball. Can’t make this stuff up.

    • Bill

      Dickerson, not Castellonas. Don’t need the significant defensive liability.

  2. Ed

    Can we please get Jorge Soler. Soler and Suarez would be an insane offense force

    • Bob Purkey

      Would love to have Soler, but I really don’t think that KC will easily give up a guy who just hit 48 dingers. But again, another guy with power, but strikes out a lot(1 out of every 3 ABs) Again, we have that already.

      • Ed

        Soler, Suarez. Tim Anderson from the White Sox to play short! Boom. add another obp guy to play second. Completely different world! Haha. Not that we’d get either of those guys.

      • Ed

        Yoan Moncada too! Those guys are making league minimum and would potentially tear up NL pitching

  3. AirborneJayJay

    I like Castellanos and think he can play average defense in LF. Winker and Ervin can handle RF adequately. CF is going to be a little difficult as it will most likely require a trade. Hard to say what the Pirates do with Matte whether they pick up his option or trade him to start another rebuild. The A’s have a couple of options to target. The Dodgers Verdugo or Pederson are possible if Bellinger is going to be their CF. Betts or Benentendi in Boston could be possibilities. If he is back healthy, the M’s Mitch Haniger might become available. Haniger had a down year in 2019 being injured but had a breakout 2017-2018. Some have mentioned TB’s Pham as possible.
    There are several teams for the Reds to talk to that seem to have some surplus where the Reds have needs.

  4. Scott C

    Out of that group the only two I would be interested in are Dickinson and Ozuna, although I am not too sure about Ozuna’s fielding.

    • Bob Purkey

      Ozuna does not thrill me in the slightest. Horrible outfielder. . .not sure about the metrics but having watched a lot from both players, even I think that Castellanos is better(and he’s not good!). Ozuna is just lackadaisical as can be. He hits HR’s but strikes out a lot( 1 out of 4 AB) and I think we have quite a few of those. I want someone who can put the bat on the ball pretty consistently.

      • Jefferson Green

        Ozuna had some fielding gaffes, for sure, and I am not sure he will be worth what it takes to get him, but his overall defensive metrics are closer to average than horrible (to be clear – still not good, but probably a bit better than Castellanos).
        His strikeout rate was better than league average despite being a power hitter – would have been fifth best on the Reds, ahead of guys like Ervin, Barnhart, and VanMeter. In aggregate over the last four years, his strikeout rate is below 20%.
        And his walk rate (11.3%) was also above league average, and would have been third on the Reds behind Votto and Barnhart (and ahead of guys like Winker, Suarez, and VanMeter).

  5. Phil

    Jesse Winker hit 285/368/519 last year against right-handed pitching. His 887 OPS was 40th best in MLB against right-handed pitching. Phil Ervin is a good 4th-outfielder and a great platoon partner for Winker with a career 907 OPS against lefties. I am comfortable with them in left field.

    Yasiel Puig in the 2017 and ’18 seasons hit 264/337/490. Good for an 827 OPS and 120 wRC+.
    From opening day through the end of May this season he hit 218/268/391. That’s 658 OPS and 64 wRC+.
    From June 1st through the end of the season he was back to 293/359/494 with an 854 OPS and 120 wRC+.
    I don’t know what he’ll cost as a free agent but would feel safe expecting him to be the hitter he’s been the last 3 seasons, outside of a rough 2 months to begin 2019.

    • BK

      I agree, Winker/Ervin should platoon in an OF corner as they are both productive and affordable.

    • JB

      Hard no on Puig. Was hitting 190 I believe June 1st. He always starts out slow. We watched Bruce do this for years . Cant watch it again. Reds needed him to produce in the spring and didnt. I’ll take the guy who produces every month.

      • Curt

        Not to make excuses but in all fairness to Puig, he’s coming to a new team with a lot of expectations. He’s Cuban (tropic) and spent his whole career playing in sunny Southern California. April weather was particularly brutal this past season, cold, rainy winter like conditions throughout the NL central and well into May. Conditions a warm weather guy like Puig isn’t very used to, heck it’s tough on anybody.
        Some of those games the weather was so bad hardly anyone showed up. Once again, not making excuses but it would make sense that these elements may have had some effect on his early performance. Kemp as well, but Kemp also had absolutely no interest in being a Red so that’s a different thing altogether.

  6. Roger Garrett

    Always the same for me.We need a bat or two and everything else then can be sorted out.Just can’t have weak links at short and behind the plate to hold us back offensively which it will regardless of who the other 6 guys are cause the other team just pitches around them until a weak link comes up.Castellanos is by far the best guy available.Sign Grandal and him and doesn’t matter who plays short.Their pitching will be top 5 again and have to match it with a top 5 offense and if that happens well look out barring injury of course.

    • Michael Smith

      Roger,

      You misspelled Rendon for the best player available

  7. Kap

    Trade for David Peralta. Thank you good night!!!

  8. Old-school

    What about Shogo Akiyama in CF.
    He just filed for FA in MLB and per reports is a good hitter with plate discipline.

    • BK

      I like this option. He can also serve as insurance against Aquino regressing out of the RF spot. Best case Akiyama starts 3 times a week while our young OF with Winker/Ervin in LF, Senzel in CF and Aquino in RF thrive. Akiyama could fill the void at any spot if one falters due to performance or injury.

    • TR

      Go for Shogo in center and Senzel to second. Akiyama seems to be a stellar contact hitter with a .301 average after nine seasons in the Japanese League. Then use money to get Grandal and maybe Gregorius, who most commentators seem to want, not including myself.

      • Bob Purkey

        I posted this in the “catchers discussion.” There are people(“experts?”) who say Grandal’s price will be 4 years/$90MM. . . No thanks at that price in any way shape or form.

  9. BK

    Gardner is intriguing, but I anticipate he’ll pay for the Yankees or retire. He would be an excellent addition to the team and could perform serviceably in GABP’s smallish CF.

  10. Andy

    I don’t see any of these options providing a big enough difference to warrant significant free agency dollars. I’m not 100% convinced any of these will perform drastically better than Winker/Ervin platoon or Aquino. Reds really need CF upgrade and none of these options look great. If the Reds really want to upgrade OF, I think they’ll need to stay active in trade market. I would support free agency dollars at catcher and SP/RP, because I think available free agents present clear upgrade from Barnhart and Mahle. Available FA at SS, 2B, and CF don’t really excite me. As much as the cost might hurt, for the Reds to be a true WS contender, I think they will absolutely need to trade for a true star at CF or SS, as well as spend some FA dollars on Grandal and pitchers.

  11. JB

    Sign Castellanos forleft field. Trade Winker and prospects for Semien and Laureano. Semien only one year left before free agency . Their 4th best prospect Mateo is a shortstop and out of options. The A’s wont sign Semien. Give them a call and see what it takes. Then sign him for 5 years. Tired of the winker , Ervin cicus in left.

  12. B-town fan

    Mark Sheldon mentioned in his column on Reds.com that the Reds should sign free agents Gregorious at SS and Moustakas for 2nd base and trade for Tommy Pham he could play any of the out field spots. I really like the first two moves, not sure about the last one, but if the Reds could do those moves with someone similar to Pham and add some bullpen pieces, and you wouldn’t have to gut the farm to do it. I think that would be a very successful off season and moves the ball towards having winning season and playoff contention.

    • Curt

      Wouldn’t gut the farm but would further block the rookies we’ve actually brought up. Senzel and JVM would effectively be blocked at both 2nd and 3rd (for the 2nd or third time) and of course O’Grady is blocked at 1B. Maybe they should just trade all these young guys then if they’re not interested in creating something with them. We certainly don’t need them playing out of position or being “in-season” Zobrist experiments again. And veterans tend to make better bench players anyway. Just trade them already then.

  13. Doc

    Probably good to keep in mind that the Phillies signed Harper for big bucks and sat home during the playoffs while Harper’s former team won the WS the first year Harper is gone.

  14. Chris Holbert

    Now with Galvis’ option picked up, not that that is great, but if you let him go as well, then you are scrambling, and potentially overpaying for the position. THey really need to look at C and OF. Senzel really needs to be seen as the 2B, it will hopefully keep him healthier, and his offense should only improve. They really need to get some big time offense from the outfield, because Votto, even though he was better in the second half, is definitely past his RBI prime, and not going anywhere. It did not seem there was much confidence in JVM, so I do not think they see him as a regular, so he and Farmer are probably destined for the utility roles. They need to figure out, for sure, where Senzel is going to play, and prioritize between C, CF/OF and SS if possible, and go big, and then fill in around that.