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Free agency preview: Outfielders

Could one of these players patrol Kauffman Stadium next year?

League Championship Series - St Louis Cardinals v Washington Nationals - Game Three Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

While we probably shouldn’t expect the Royals to be too active this off-season considering they are still rebuilding, we don’t really know what direction they will got under new owner John Sherman. The outfield is still a fluid situation with questions over whether Alex Gordon will return. Young outfielders like Brett Phillips and Bubba Starling show some potential, but have yet to lock down a roster spot. Whit Merrifield may end up in the outfield again, and prospect Khalil Lee could be ready before very long.

The Royals could look to solidify their open outfield situation through the free agent market. Let’s look at who will available.

Solid starters in their prime

J.D. Martinez can opt out of the final three years and $62.5 million on his deal, but he still seems likely to return to Boston on a new deal.

Nick Castellanos caught on fire once he was traded to the Cubs and the 27-year old should be one of the more sought-after hitters after posting back-to-back 120+ wRC+ seasons.

Starling Marte will likely have his $11.5 million option picked up, although don’t be surprised if the Pirates move him in a trade after a solid 3.0 fWAR season.

Marcell Ozuna has slammed 89 home runs over the last three seasons and has been a solid run producer, but the 28-year old has not been able to replicate his big numbers from 2017, instead putting up a 107 OPS+ over the past two seasons.

Kole Calhoun hit a career-high 33 home runs this year, but has a .315 on-base percentage over the last three seasons, making it a difficult decision for the Angels on whether or not to pick up the $14 million option for the 32-year old former Gold Glover.

Adam Eaton will likely be returning to the Nationals on a $9.5 million club option after a solid 2.3 fWAR season.

Jason Heyward seems unlikely to opt out of the four year, $86 million remaining on his deal, even after putting up his best offensive numbers since 2015.

Avisail Garcia was non-tendered last winter and bounced back to have a solid 1.8 fWAR season with 20 home runs at age 28, but his poor defense could be a concern in Kansas City.

Corey Dickerson has hit over .300 in each of the last two seasons and the 30-year former Gold Glover put up his highest OPS+ since 2014, although in just 78 games.

Yasiel Puig hasn’t been the 5 WAR player he was early in his career, but he is still just 28, has hit 20+ home runs in each of the last three seasons, and has been worth nearly 6 fWAR of the last three seasons combined.

Older veterans

Hunter Pence won AL Comeback Player of the Year at age 36 by hitting .297/.358/.552 with 18 home runs with the Rangers.

Brett Gardner hit a career-high 28 home runs at age 36 and has been a solid player the last few years, but he is hoping to return to the Bronx.

Alex Gordon will certainly have his $20 million option declined, and he has said he will decide this off-season whether or not he wants to continue playing.

Jarrod Dyson continues to steal bases (30 last year) and play great defense (15th among all outfielders in UZR/150 and 8th in DRS), even at age 35.

Nick Markakis would still be a good bargain on his $6 million club option, but the Braves may decide to go in a different direction and part with the 35-year old who hit .285/.356/.420 this year.

Ben Zobrist faced some personal issues this summer but returned late in the year and hasn’t decided if he will retire at age 39.

Adam Jones was below replacement level last year at age 34 mostly due to a significant decline in defense and on-base percentage that was 18th-worst among qualified hitters.

Melky Cabrera can still hit for average, but he has little power, was an atrocious defender last year and should probably be limited to a bench role.

Others: Carlos Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, Curtis Granderson

Role Players

Lonnie Chisenhall has only played in 29 games the last two seasons but the 31-year old has been a decent left-handed bat when healthy.

Cameron Maybin has played for five teams in the last two seasons, but enjoyed a renaissance with the Yankees, hitting .28/.364/.494 in 82 games this year.

Leonys Martin is a solid defender in center, and while the 31-year old had an atrocious season offensively, he could be a bounce-back candidate.

Gerardo Parra has had a moment with his Baby Shark walk up music during the playoffs, but the 32-year old has been a replacement-level outfielder the last two seasons.

Billy Hamilton didn’t exactly set the basepaths ablaze with the Royals, stealing just 18 bases in 93 games, but perhaps he can run more in a second stint in Kansas City.

Juan Lagares is also a glove-first, no-bat outfielder, but the former Gold Glover is just 30-years old and could fill out a bench.

Jon Jay dealt with a lot of injuries in 2019, and at age 34, he’ll have to prove he can still get on base as a role player.

Carlos Gomez has declined prety rapidly the last two seasons and at age 33, is probably in line for a minor league deal.

Aaron Altherr showed some promise with 19 home runs and a 122 OPS+ in 2017 but has struggled to hit since then and the 28-year old was designated for assignment by the Mets in August.

Others: Chris Owings, Peter Bourjos, Austin Jackson, Gorkys Hernandez, Charlie Tilson, Cesar Puello, Jace Peterson, Blake Swihart