The Yankees have Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson returning to their outfield in 2013, but will probably have to replace Nick Swisher, who is a free agent this offseason. They could do it with Ichiro Suzuki, but if the Yankees decide to turn to the free agent market for Swisher’s replacement here is a list of the best available free agent outfielders.
- Josh Hamilton, Age: 31, 2012 Salary: $13.75M, 2012 OPS: .930, Career OPS: .913: Everybody knows about Hamilton. He hits like a beast and can play all three outfield positions, but he has trouble off the field. The prevailing thought is that he can’t handle New York, but I’m not sold on that because you can drink and do drugs in every city. The Yankees will probably pass because of the money, but I would like to see them sign him if they could get him for four years or less. My guess is that it will take at least five to nab him though.
- Torii Hunter, Age: 37, 2012 Salary: $18M, 2012 OPS: .817, Career OPS: .801: Hunter’s biggest problem is his age. He can still hit though and he can still play a corner outfield spot. The question is, how much longer can we expect him to hold up? If the Yankees think he’s got at least another year in him and he’s willing to sign a one-year deal, I could see it happening. His age may ultimately scare them off though.
- Angel Pagan, Age: 31, 2012 Salary: $4.85M, 2012 OPS: .778, Career OPS: 757: Pagan has been a solid player since winning an everyday job with the Mets in 2009 with the exception of 2011, but that team was particularly bad and played in a pitcher’s park so it is hard to kill him for that. He played a great center field and finished with very solid numbers. He would be an excellent pickup if the Yankees were willing to move Granderson to right field. He would also bring some speed to the Bronx with 98 stolen bases in the last three years.
- Cody Ross, Age: 32, $3M, 2012 OPS: .807, Career OPS: .783: The Yankees have had interest in Ross in the past so don’t be surprised if they do again this offseason. I think fans will be disappointed though if he’s Swisher’s replacement. He’s a similar player, but with less patience and less pop. Still, he could end up being a good value and a team looking to trim payroll is always looking for value.
- B.J. Upton, Age: 28, 2012 Salary: $7M, 2012 OPS: .752, Career OPS: .758: Upton once had as much potential as anybody in baseball, but I think we’ve seen his ceiling. He’s not a bad player, but not what we expected. He can run, he can hit for a bit of power, and he’ll play great defense. He can’t hit for average though, doesn’t show strong patience, and will strikeout a lot. If he’s looking for a big contract the Yankees would be better off just signing Ichiro.
- Michael Bourn, Age: 30, 2012 Salary: $6.845M, 2012 OPS: .739, Career OPS: .704: The weakest hitter on this list so far, but he can run and plays a great center field. He reaches base at a better rate than Upton and is faster, but doesn’t have his power. If the Yankees priority was defense, he’d be the best option.
- Melky Cabrera, Age: 28, 2012 Salary: $6M, 2012 OPS: .906, Career OPS: .752: Melky had a great year, but obviously it was PED enhanced so that obviously makes it hard to know what to expect from him. I actually think the Yankees should consider signing him if they can get him on a one-year deal. They’ve had a bad experience with him as a young player who didn’t take his job seriously though and will probably pass because of that and the PED questions.
- Shane Victorino, Age: 32, 2012 Salary: $9.5M, 2012 OPS: .704, Career OPS: .770: It was an off year for the Flyin’ Hawaiian and there could be some concern that he’s aging, but he seems a little too young for that. A solid center fielder, he gets on at a decent pace and has occasional pop. He’s an interesting option because he’s a veteran who could probably be had at a reasonable three-year deal.
- Delmon Young, Age: 27, 2012 Salary: $6.75M, 2012 OPS: .707, Career OPS: .742: He’s the Anti-Swisher. He is a weak fielder and not a great hitter. He doesn’t get on base a whole lot, but he does have occasional pop. The reason I call him the Anti-Swisher is because he hits very well in the playoffs. He’s still just 27 so there may be some upside left, but his behavioral issues will probably scare the Yankees away.
- Grady Sizemore, Age: 30, 2012 Salary: $5M, 2012 OPS: N/A, Career OPS: .830: An extremely injury prone player who is very talented when healthy. He hasn’t played even close to a full season since 2009 and 2008 was probably his last real good season. I could see the Yankees making him an offer if he lingers on the market especially if they sign someone like Ross and want a bit of insurance. He’ll probably won’t play though and if he does it’ll probably be for Cleveland.
THOUGHTS: There are a few options here, but the Yankees need to cut payroll to $189 million by 2014 will be the biggest factor. Signing any of these players to multi-year deals almost guarantees that they can’t afford Granderson next year. If they can get him on a reasonable deal, my preference would be to see them sign Pagan. I think Ross is the most likely name on this list though. Melky intrigues me, but only on a very cheap redemption type contract.