This winter’s free agent market includes five pretty big-name outfielders who would most certainly give the Yankees a desired upgrade in right field. Why is it, then, that Carlos Beltran is the name that keeps popping up time and time again? It happened again with Mark Feinsand’s report of Beltran as the Yankees top target now that Brian McCann is signed.
Assuming we can all agree that these are the top five outfielders on the market, do you agree with the Yankees focus on Beltran? Should they look a different direction?
Opening Day age: 36 (turns 37 in April)
Switch hitter. Massive postseason success. Pretty good defensive right fielder. And the Yankees have a roster that should allow fairly regular turns at DH to keep him healthy. The things to like about Beltran are pretty obvious. The downside is equally clear: He’s about to turn 37, and it’s entirely possible he’ll require a three-year commitment. Another outfielder signed through his 39th birthday isn’t going to do much to get the Yankees younger, and Beltran’s had fairly recent injury problems. There’s surely some comfort in the fact he’s been pretty steady the past two seasons, suggesting Beltran is aging well, and it helps that the Yankees other aging outfielders — Ichiro, Wells, Soriano — are free agents at the end of this season. Is one late-30s outfielder acceptable going forward?
Opening Day age: 31
There was a time when Choo seemed to be one of the more underrated players in baseball, but I’m not sure that’s still the case. He might not be a household name, but most people seem to be on board with the idea of a career .288/.389/.465 who can play center field if necessary and steal 20 bags. Choo gets on base a lot, and he can pop a few homers — might hit even more playing in Yankee Stadium — and this offseason has brought fairly universal recognition that he’s one of the better outfielders in the game. Not a Mike Trout superstar, but an awfully good player capable of being either a table setter or a run producer. The downside here is probably cost. If Hunter Pence got five years and $90 million, what’s Choo going to get? Is he worth it? (Failed to mention initially that Choo has been pretty brutal against lefties in his career, still gets on base a little bit, but that’s about it.)
Opening Day age: 30
Generally considered the best overall outfielder available, much of that perceived value centers on Ellbury’s glove in center field. I’ve previous made the case that, while Brett Gardner is hardly an Ellsbury-level player, he’s a fairly similar type of player. Just seems to be an unnecessary use of funds to spend heavily on another left-handed, speedy center fielder who could fit at the top of the order. Ellsbury would be an upgrade, but he’s also going to cost well over $100 million and a long-term commitment to a guy who’s missed time fairly regularly because of injuries. Hard to doubt the guy’s talent — doesn’t have to hit 32 homers again to be a very productive player; I had him on my MVP ballot this year — but he might not be the perfect fit for the Yankees.
Opening Day age: 33
During his four years with the Yankees, Granderson evolved as a hitter. His power spiked, his running diminished, and he became a fairly one-dimensional slugger. There’s a lot to be said for a left-handed hitter who’s capable of 40 homers in a season — even with the low on-base percentage — and that’s especially true when he can play center field. The Yankees, though, don’t need Granderson to play center, and they put a premium on guys who can not only hit homers but also work a good at-bat. A left-handed pure power hitter fits nicely in Yankee Stadium, but Granderson’s more one-dimensional than the other options, and the Yankees have little need to pay a premium for his ability to play center.
Opening Day age: 33
A bad defensive player coming off a Biogenesis suspension who costs a draft pick. Clearly not ideal. But Cruz has also slugged .489 the past three years, and he would have hit more than 30 homers this year had he not been suspended. Marlon Byrd’s two-year, $16-million deal with the Phillies set a pretty high price tag for acquiring right-handed power this offseason. Cruz did a little of everything in 2010, but since then he’s been more of a one-dimensional offensive player. His past three seasons seem to give a reasonable expectation of what Cruz could do going forward, but the Yankees aren’t going to like his defensive metrics, and their ballpark is better suited for a left-handed hitter or switch hitter.
Associated Press photo