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Navigating through the free agent outfielder market

"A record is never something to stand on. It's something to build on"

It is because I agree with these words from noted American ethicist Richard Nixon that I state my concern about the Royals search for a new outfielder.

My concern, at this time, is that the pool of talent has narrowed enough that players who could realistically become Royals are signing with other teams for non-insane prices. Melky Cabrera at 30 years old for $14M a year is not as crazy as what Beltran got at 36 or such. Today, rumors emerged of Colby Rasmus signing for just one year. Such an idea seems like something that can be reasonably done.

Is this team standing on 89-73 and a magical run to the World Series? or are they gonna build on that run and making themselves into a realistic contender for the playoffs?

Royals fans are starting to grind their teeth about outfield options. What's out there?
Royals fans are starting to grind their teeth about outfield options. What's out there?
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to part of the outfielder market.. I decided now is the time to "help" in finding the pool of Right Field Outfield talent and narrowing it down for the purposes of finding someone. Unfortunately for the Royals option, the job posting for Right Fielder in Kansas City won't draw 500 random applicants to be narrowed through a personality test ("Rank the coworkers doing things you'll report to management from 1 to 5"). Also, unlike a 'real' job, the teams come to the prospective candidates instead of the other way (ok, exceptions exist, but it's like the LendingTree ad with the shirtless puppet). So, let's play hiring manager and help the Royals find that outfielder.

First, one complexity that will come up in this search... there's more left fielders than right fielders. This team has a left fielder, who is not gonna be moved to right field.

So, how about some prospective free agent candidates!

In the spirit of a massive list of candidates, this list has 34 names on it (from the Baseball-Reference list). They are..

Ichiro Suzuki, Alex Rios, Nori Aoki, Colby Rasmus, Chris Denorfia, Corey Hart, Kelly Johnson, Andy Dirks, Kyle Blanks, Ryan Ludwick, Ryan Doumit, Raul Ibanez, Chris Dickerson, Nolan Reimold, Tony Gwynn Jr, Reed Johnson, Michael Morse, Scott Hairston, Nate Schierholtz, Mike Carp, Jesus Guzman, Endy Chavez, Jonny Gomes, Mike Baxter, Tyler Colvin, Eric Young, Delmon Young, Roger Bernadina, Jerry Sands, Andrew Brown, Greg Dobbs, Michael Martinez, Ryan Kalish, Michael Taylor.

Yes, Raul Ibanez isn't retired yet. He's due for a bounceback year after his bat missed April and May. And June. And July. And most of August. And September.

10 of the 34 players listed don't have Steamer projections for 2015: Ibanez (sorry Raul), Dickerson, Reimold (had a few quality seasons years ago), Baxter, Bernadina, Sands, Dobbs, Michael Martinez, Kalish and Taylor. So cross them off the list and send them automated "It's not you, it's us" letters in 3 months.

Now, out of the 24.. split them kinda-randomly into three groups of 8.

  • Group A: Andrew Brown, Colby Rasmus, Delmon Young, Michael Morse, Ryan Doumit, Scott Hairston, Tony Gwynn Jr, and Tyler Colvin.
  • Group B: Chris Denorfia, Corey Hart, Endy Chavez, Jonny Gomes, Kelly Johnson, Nori Aoki, Reed Johnson, and Ryan Ludwick
  • Group C: Alex Rios, Andy Dirks, Eric Young, Ichiro Suzuki, Jesus Guzman, Kyle Blanks, Mike Carp, and Nate Schierholtz

If we look to Steamer-OPS, the top 4 from each group are as follows-

  • A: Morse, Rasmus, Young and Hairston
  • B: Hart, Aoki, Denorfia and Gomes
  • C: Blanks, Dirks, Carp and Rios

Mike Carp, who was released in August, is being projected to out-OPS Alex Rios.

Top-4s for Steamer OBP by group

  • A: Morse, Andrew Brown, Delmon Young and Rasmus
  • B: Aoki, Gomes, Denorfia and Hart
  • C: Blanks, Dirks, Carp and Eric Young

Lastly, top-4s in a stat I use called 'Expected Bases' (Total Bases plus Walks plus HBP divided by At-Bats+Walks+HBP+Sac Flies). Don't worry, i'm not expecting it to catch on.

  • A: Morse, Rasmus, D. Young and Brown
  • B: Hart, Gomes, Kelly Johnson and Denorfia
  • C: Blanks, Carp, Dirks and Jesus Guzman

So, let's narrow that 24 to the 16 listed in at least one of those 3 top-four lists. That eliminates Doumit, Colvin, Gwynn, Ludwick, Reed Johnson, Chavez, Schierholtz, and Ichiro Suzuki. Doumit and Ludwick have their own intrigue but their own obvious downsides (mostly an inability to hit in 2014).

How do the 16 remaining outfielders shake out on things like Hitting since 2012, Age, Position(s) played, and the such? Here they are in one order..

  1. Corey Hart: 251/315/452, 33 on opening day, 748 games in RF. Missed 2013 with knee injuries.
  2. Jonny Gomes: 248/349/417, 34 on opening day, 509 games in LF and 160 in RF.
  3. Colby Rasmus: 240/304/444, 29 in August, 731 games in CF, 9 in LF and 6 in CF.
  4. Michael Morse: 266/313/448, 33 on opening day, 237 games in LF, 179 in RF.
  5. Scott Hairston: 237/277/455, turns 35 in May, primarily LF (368 in LF, 149 in CF, 103 in RF)
  6. Alex Rios: 288/324/452, 34 on opening day, has played 1145 games in RF.
  7. Andy Dirks: 283/342/415, 29 on opening day, 213 games in LF, 61 in RF. Missed 2014 season.
  8. Mike Carp: 239/327/391, turns 29 in June, majority of games at 1st base, 106 in LF and 4 in RF.
  9. Andrew Brown: 222/287/402, turns 31 in September, 60 MLB games in RF and 34 in LF.
  10. Nori Aoki: 287/353/387, 33 on opening day, 375 games in RF, rest at CF/LF/DH.
  11. Delmon Young: 272/308/417, turns 30 in September, 571 games in LF and 230 in RF.
  12. Kelly Johnson: 226/307/379, 33 on opening day, primarily plays 2nd base, played 136 games in LF (mostly in 2005 or 2013)
  13. Kyle Blanks: 253/324/385, 29 in September, 122 games in LF and 60 in RF.
  14. Chris Denorfia: 269/324/390, turns 35 in July, 352 games in RF, 248 in LF, 164 in CF.
  15. Jesus Guzman: 226/300/365, turns 31 in June, mostly played 1st base, 101 games in LF/13 in RF
  16. Eric Young: 255/318/348, turns 30 in May, primarily LF (221 in LF, 44 in CF, and 34 in RF)

So, the field is..

  • primarily LF/1B/DH: Gomes, Morse, Hairston, Dirks, Carp, D. Young, K. Johnson, Blanks, Guzman and E. Young.
  • primarily CF: Rasmus.
  • primarily RF: Hart, Rios, Brown, Aoki, and Denorfia

One thing about this field of 16 is that "call another team" will beat out several names on the list. When you can make a case for Andy Dirks being on the top 1/3rd of a list (Rasmus, Morse, Dirks, Rios, Aoki would be a plausible top 5 of this 'deep' field of talent)

Out of the primary RFers: Corey Hart played 8 games in the outfield in 2014 and likely isn't gonna be any better in the outfield in 2015. Alex Rios' power vanished in 2014 and he'll be 34. Andrew Brown likely isn't starting caliber. Aoki has declined from 2012 to 2013 to 2014. Denorfia is the oldest of the field.

Out of the primary LFers/1B/DH: Gomes had a down 2014, is a platoon bat, and was last seen colliding with a teammate in the Wildcard Game. Morse is gonna get elevated compared to the field. Hairston hit 20 homers in 2012 and has hit like refried death in 2013/2014. Andy Dirks is an intriguing idea (and a Kansan) but he missed 2014 and is a lefty bat. Mike Carp was on KC's radar this summer, but went to Texas and kept not-hitting. Delmon Young is only an outfielder in a technical sense (but would be a good partner for Kendrys Morales if you could carry 2 non-fielders on one team). Kelly Johnson is more of a 2nd baseman than a regular outfielder. Kyle Blanks was mentioned by some as someone to acquire during 2014. Jesus Guzman should probably look into non-MLB leagues. Eric Young probably doesn't play centerfield for a good reason.

Colby Rasmus? Some of this numbers are bad (low on-base) and some are encouraging (pitches per PA, his walk rate isn't terrible). His health would be a concern. He's not good v. left-handed pitching, but it's not a dealbreaker. Frankly, Cain is way better in CF than Rasmus and it'd be better to start Rasmus in RF to see what he has there. Rasmus is the best free agent OF in the field, but a lot of the field isn't very good. KC could do more to fill that hole in the outfield by signing Rasmus than by signing any other OF on the market.

There's lots of other ideas in the process. Living a Justin Upton fantasy trade. Trying to find someone else's 4th outfielder or platoon outfielder (Scott Van Slyke or Steven Souza). If Rasmus drops to someone else, then it's time to start digging through the crates to try and get someone else. That's the avenue that involves buying dented cans of soup from Dirty Don's in Raytown in a lot of cases.

And no, regularly starting Jarrod Dyson or Carlos Peguero in the outfield is not a good idea. How many words does it require to say that?

So, when it comes to the "hiring" process of finding a possible right fielder for this team.. there's a lot of nothing out there. It's like shopping in the store after it's been cleaned out by other shoppers.

Here's a poll on the matter.

Or you can check into "Previously on Royals Review" on RasmusRios, or Morse/Denorfia.