In the wake of the Gary Matthews Jr trade, I thought I would take a look at other outfield options that I believe are still available right now. In other words, this is not counting players like Jerry Hairston Jr, who signed a few days ago with the Padres, or players like Reid Gorecki, Mike Restovich, or Darnell McDonald who have already signed minor league deals, or even Matt Murton, who has signed to play in Japan.
Certainly, the Mets have known for some time that Carlos Beltran's knees were an issue and that they needed a back up option for CF. I mean they do read Will Carroll don't they? But just for fun, lets pretend this is something unexpected and the Mets couldn't have addressed it sooner. What would you do if you were GM in this situation?
A look at some of the available options:
Randy Winn - While he's the same age as Matthews, born almost 3 months earlier, Winn remains a productive player and the better athlete, still playing solid defense, and stealing a total of 41 bases over the past 2 seasons with only 4 CS. He did see a sharp drop in his offense last season, posting only a .302 wOBA after being around .350 for the previous two seasons. But, while not too much rebound is expected given his age, he still projects easily to be worth about 1 WAR, even with about a .310 wOBA, as his defense should still be near average in CF and above average in a corner. Reports are he is unlikely to land a starting job this offseason, with San Diego and Arizona the teams who have shown the most interest so far. If he's being signed as a bench guy, it's hard to imagine he would cost more than a few million over what the Mets will be paying the inferior Matthews Jr. CHONE projects .269/.317/.364 and +8.1 RAR
Reed Johnson - The 33 year has been roughly a league average bat, with a .331 career wOBA, and .327 last season. He's a poor defensive CF, just OK in a corner, but not really any worse overall defensively than Matthews is at this stage. The Cubs remain interested, as are the Yankees (per the NY Times), but he's not expected to get more than the $2M 1 year deal Jerry Hairston recently received. Chone projects him for a .320 wOBA, hitting .268/.335/.384, not too far below average, but with his defense bringing him down to about a replacement level overall, for a net +1 RAR. That's essentially a Gary Matthews glove but a better bat.
Rocco Baldelli - The 28 year old outfielder boasts an about average .333 career wOBA, and on top of that plays above average defense in a corner, near average in CF. The catch here is that a rare medical condition, referred to as a channelopathy, which causes slow muscle recovery, and won't permit him to be an everyday player. The condition is non-progressive, though, and he should continue to be able to produce as normal in a bench role, now that the condition is properly diagnosed and can be managed through diet and medication. The Yankees and Cubs are again the teams which have shown interest. CHONE projects .260/.319/.448, for a .334 wOBA, and +9.0 RAR in 364 PA. Even if that playing time estimate is optimistic, Baldelli would be around +5 RAR in even very limited time, as he adds value both offensively and defensively.
Johnny Damon - The 36 year old is the reason the Yankees are shopping for a bench player, as he has already turned down their 2 year $14M offer. This appears to have been a mistake, as he is unlikely to get as much now elsewhere. Damon can still hit though, with his .376 wOBA last year well above his career average of .351. Like Winn, Damon also still has good speed, with 41 SB over the last 2 seasons to only 8 CS. Defensively, he's a bit below average now for CF, but still a bit above average for a corner. Damon is the one guy here who should cost significantly more than Matthews, but would be well worth it.. CHONE projects a .352 wOBA, with his solid defense bringing him to 32.1 RAR total. That's an above average starter, nearly as good as most are expecting from Jason Bay.
Gabe Gross - The 30 year old is another near average bat, with a .325 career wOBA, and a .328 CHONE forecast for next season. On top of that, he's a near average defender in CF, and above average in the corners. Nonetheless, he was non-tendered by the Rays after a career low .306 wOBA last year, and seems to be seeing surprisingly little interest so far in the hot-stove season. Gross is best as a platoon option, you would want a RHB to pair with him, as he struggles vs. LHP. Still, CHONE forecasts a .243/.342/.393 line, with positive defensive value bringing him to +8.6 RAR in just 307 PA.
Marcus Thames - Thames who will be 33 by opening day, is a poor choice if you really need someone to cover CF, as he's strictly a corner OF. But, you still have to wonder how much worse he'd be out there than Matthews at this stage, and he is a younger and better bat. He has a career .336 wOBA, was .329 last year, and CHONE has him forecast for a .238/.307/.467 line, a .334 wOBA, and still a net +1.9 RAR after factoring in his defensive liabilities.
Jeff Fiorentino - Fiorentino, who will be 27 in April, only has 178 big league PA so far in his career. But, he's turned into an outstanding player at the AAA level, and impressed last year in a taste of the big league with Baltimore. His MLE for last season in AAA was .270/.333/.430, and he has played solid defense at all three outfield positions for his career. While he played mostly RF last year, he does have a bit of speed, with 15 steals last season, and his young legs would certainly make him a better choice in CF than Matthews. CHONE forecasts a .269/.344/.409 line, for a .334 wOBA, and adding positive defensive value to bring him to +15.2 RAR.
Alfredo Amezaga - The "Amazing Amezaga" has only a career .289 wOBA, and isn't projected to do much more than that by CHONE. What the 32 year old brings to the table to compensate though, is above average defense at almost any position. Despite the mediocre bat, Amezaga has been worth a cummulative 45.3 RAR for the Marlins over the last 4 seasons. He still plays a solid CF and despite a CHONE offensive projection of only .252/.309/.344, and only a .292 wOBA, he is still projected for +8.1 RAR.
Prentice Redman - The 30 year old former Met farmhand, and brother of Tike Redman, has turned into one of the best outfielders in AAA. While his OPS numbers of .920 in 2008, and .900 in 2009 look intriguing, the bat likely still won't translate that well to MLB, as his MLE line for last year of .268/.313/.465 indicates. But, while the high strikeouts and lack of discipline put some limits on the bat, that's still a respectable line. And while he's not a great defender, he still does play all three OF positions. While giving a big league job to a guy like Redman would seem a poor choice in a market in which there have been superior proven major leaguers available cheaply, like Coco Crisp getting only $5.25M, I think the point is that a realistic projection for Redman is still probably close to what an optimistic one for the 35 year old Matthews might be. CHONE says .250/.321/.430, for a total of +6.5 RAR.