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A look at this year’s outfield free agent class

Will the Royals seek another bat in the outfield?

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World Series - Texas Rangers v. Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Five Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Royals will focus largely on upgrading the pitching staff this off-season, but their offense could use some upgrades as well. They scored the eighth-fewest runs in baseball with the fifth-fewest home runs and the third-lowest on-base percentage.

At the end of the season, J.J. Picollo insisted he was satisfied with the infield, but would seek upgrades in the outfield. There were reports the Royals were interested in acquiring veteran outfielder Mark Canha from the Brewers before he was traded to the Tigers. Here are some free agents that could interest the Royals.

Top tier outfielders

Cody Bellinger was coming off two disastrous seasons with the Dodgers when he signed a one-year “make good” deal with the Cubs last winter. That paid off as he hit .307/.356/.525 with 26 home runs, winning a Silver Slugger Award for center field. The 28-year-old is one of the younger free agents available, and is likely the most coveted bat not named Shohei Ohtani.

Prediction: Six years, $138 million

Mid-tier outfielders

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was an All-Star for the first time this year, hitting .261/.309/.463 with a career-high 24 home runs for the pennant-winning Diamondbacks. The right-handed hitter puts the ball in play with a low strikeout and low walk rate. The 30-year-old Cuban was a plus defender this year in left, and should be one of the more attractive hitters on the market.

Prediction: Four years, $48 million

Teoscar Hernández has been a solid 20-30 home run hitter for awhile, but he has seen his OPS+ decline in each of the last four seasons, falling to 106 last year. He still smacked 26 home runs, but his ISO fell to a career-low .178, and his walk rate declined to a career-low 5.6 percent. He strikes out a lot and he is a liability in the field, but the 31-year-old has 147 home runs over the last six seasons, 23rd-most in baseball.

Prediction: Three years, $36 million

Kevin Kiermaier is still one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball at age 33. He enjoyed his best offensive season since 2017 this year, hitting .265/.322/.419 in 408 plate appearances. The lefty bat doesn’t have a big platoon split and he was 14-of-15 in steals this year. But you’re getting the four-time Gold Glover to be an elite ballhawk in center for you.

Prediction: Two years, $24 million

Jung-Ho Lee is just 24-years old, but is already a six-year veteran of the KBO, winning Rookie of the Year honors as an 18-year-old. He has a mature approach to the plate with a high walk rate as a young hitter, and has slowly increased his power with 23 home runs in 2022, but that number plunged this year as he missed time with an fractured ankle. Lee is a high-contact lefty hitter who can handle centerfield, and could command the largest contract ever by a Korean player.

Prediction: Five years, $60 million

Whit Merrifield played for the Royals for seven years before they traded him to Toronto last summer. He is really more of a second baseman, where he was elected as an All-Star for the third time this summer, but he has played 365 games in the outfield in his MLB career. The three-time stolen base champ was caught 10 times in 36 attempts last year and he slumped badly over the last two months of the season to finish at .272/.318/.382.

Prediction: Two years, $18 million

Bargain bin

Harrison Bader was traded for Jordan Montgomery about 16 months ago, and while Montgomery will get a $100+ million contract this winter, Bader will be lucky to get a multi-year deal. The 29-year-old would fit well in Kauffman Stadium as a plus defender in center and a good baserunner who stole 20 bases last year. But his bat has been awful the last two years with a 77 wRC+, one of the worst in baseball over that time. He has significantly cut down on his strikeout rate, but hardly walks at all either. He has decent power for a centerfielder, but has been very injury-prone.

Prediction: One year, $7 million

Adam Duvall got a bit of a late start to his career, but has been a pretty underrated outfielder for awhile now. Since he was a regular in 2016, he has hit 176 home runs, just five fewer than Salvador Perez over that time. He is a two-time Gold Glover in left, although his defense fell off a bit at age 35. The right-handed hitter would probably make for a good addition for a contender on a one-year deal, but perhaps a second year lands him elsewhere.

Prediction: One year, $11 million

Joey Gallo is the most “three true outcomes” player in the league with a career 37.9 percent strikeout rate, 14.8 percent walk rate, and a per-162-game average of 38 home runs per season since 2017. He hasn’t hit over the Mendoza Line since 2019, but he still managed a 101 OPS+ last year by smacking 21 home runs in 332 plate appearances. He still had a terrific exit velocity last year, but the strikeout rate crept up over 40 percent last year and his defense has fallen off.

Prediction: One year, $11 million

Randal Grichuk saw his numbers jump back up to league average after two disappointing seasons, as he hit .267/.321/.459 with 16 home runs, mostly by absolutely destroying left-handed pitching. He is a below average defender in the corners, although not a terrible one.

Prediction: One year, $8 million

Aaron Hicks enjoyed a career resurgence with the Orioles, batting .275/.381/.425 with them in 65 games after being ravaged by injuries with the Yankees over the past three seasons. His power seems limited, but he has a very patient eye. The 34-year-old was a subpar defender in centerfield last year, but may be more suited for left.

Prediction: One year, $6 million

Travis Jankowski has been a journeyman, playing for six teams in the last four seasons, but he became a semi-regular for the champion Rangers, hitting .263/.357/.332 in 287 plate appearances. His calling card is speed and defense, and he won’t provide any kind of power. The 32-year-old left-handed hitter played mostly left last year, although he has played center before.

Prediction: One year, $5 million

Joc Pederson is only marginally an outfielder at this point, and should probably be considered more of a DH that hits against right-handed pitchers. He hit 23 home runs in just 433 plate appearances as an All-Star in 2022, but slumped at the end of 2023 to hit .235/.348/.416 with 15 home runs this year. He won’t turn 32 until April and he still draws a lot of walks without striking out too much.

Prediction: One year, $12 million

Tommy Pham probably earned himself some money with the Diamondbacks post-season run. He is known for his temper over fantasy football, and has been accused of being a clubhouse cancer when things don’t go well, but he was praised for his leadership and intensity with the Diamondbacks. His 111 wRC+ was his best season since 2019, which he credits in part to new contact lenses. He has a very patient eye and solid power, but will be 36 by Opening Day.

Prediction: One year, $10 million

Hunter Renfroe has a big power bat and a big arm in right, but doesn’t draw walks and has limited range defensively. He hit 25+ home runs in every full season from 2017 to 2022, but that number fell to 20 dingers this year. He’s a low-average hitter, but without a high strikeout rate. His exit velocity and launch angle dropped this year, so perhaps some tweaks can get the 31-year old back on track.

Prediction: One year, $6 million

Eddie Rosario is pretty much a platoon player at this point, but he still has solid power with 22 home runs and a league average OPS+. He hit .255/.305/.450 in 516 plate appearances with the Braves after a disastrous 2022 season. The 32-year-old is a poor defender in left and will need to DH before very long.

Prediction: One year, $7 million

Michael A. Taylor is still an elite defender in center, something he showed in 2021-22 with the Royals. He hit a career-high 21 home runs with the Twins this year, but his OPS+ was still just 94 due to a very low on-base percentage of .278. He can steal some bases, but he’s a right-handed poor man’s version of Kiermaier - someone who can chase down everything that is hit to centerfield.

Prediction: One year, $7 million

Old veterans

Michael Brantley played just 15 games this year, after playing 64 in 2022. He has long been one of the best contact hitters in baseball, but he’ll be 37 in May and his days as a big leaguer are dwindling.

Prediction: One year, $2.5 million

Corey Dickerson has signed a new one-year deal with a different team in each of the last four seasons, and has hit just .264/.309/.396 over that time. The 34-year-old is probably just a left-handed bat off the bench at this point if he can still get a big league job.

Prediction: Minor league deal

Jason Heyward enjoyed a career renaissance last year with the Dodgers, smacking 15 home runs in a part-time role with a 117 OPS+. The 34-year-old is a passable defender and could be a nice veteran addition for a contender.

Prediction: One year, $5 million

Andrew McCutchen is probably heading back to Pittsburgh, but the 37-year old hit .256/.378/.397 last year and is still a valuable outfielder. He did suffer an Achilles injury last year, but in a limited role he could be useful for a lot of teams, particularly with his veteran presence.

Prediction: One year, $5 million

David Peralta played in 133 games for the Dodgers because they ran out of healthy bodies. He hit just .259/.294/.381 this year, but he had a 108 OPS+ in 2022. He is still a good defender, and the 36-year-old could still serve as a bench bat for a lot of teams.

Prediction: One year, $3 million

Cheap! Cheap!

Robbie Grossman is a switch-hitter who does a terrific job getting on base. He won a title with the Rangers, but with limited power, he is a role player who can’t play very good defense anymore and is probably best suited as a bench bat for a contender.

Prediction: One year, $2 million

Wil Myers earned MVP votes as recently as 2020, but has been in sharp decline since then. He was released by the Reds this year after just 37 games in which he hit .189/.257/.283. The former Royals prospect will turn 33 in December, and he’s not a terrible defender, so he may be worth a flier to see if he has anything left in the tank.

Prediction: One year, $2 million

Jurickson Profar is still just 30 years old, but his career has not lived up to his prospect hype. He was over league-average offensively in 2022, but his numbers fell to .242/.321/.368 with nine home runs in 125 games last year. Profar does show a good eye with good walk rates and low strikeout rates. He’s a switch-hitter who can still play some infield if needed, but Profar is likely a bench player at this point in his career.

Prediction: One year, $2 million

Jesse Winker hit 24 home runs in an All-Star season in 2021, but his power numbers tumbled in 2022 and he was awful this year with the Brewers. He can’t hit lefties and he’s a terrible defender, but he’s just 30 years old and has terrific walk rates if you want to use him as a bench bat.

Prediction: One year, $4 million