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Ranking What’s Left of the Free Agent Outfielders

Posted By Bill Baer On January 8, 2013 @ 8:00 am In MLB,Offseason,Philadelphia Phillies,Sabermetrics | 41 Comments

This handy-dandy free agent tracker from MLB Trade Rumors shows us who’s left among free agent outfielders. GM Ruben Amaro is reportedly still searching for a veteran outfielder to add to the mix, though the hunt has certainly died down in recent days. Currently, the left-handed Domonic Brown and Laynce Nix, and right-handed John Mayberry and Darin Ruf are slated to man the corners in some kind of platoon or double-platoon.

Using the FA tracker, I’ve divvied up those remaining into a few groups: “Could be worthwhile”, “Not Like They Have Any Other Options”, and “Dear God, Why?”.

Could Be Worthwhile

Scott Hairston

  • 2012 Salary: $1.1 million (one year)
  • 2012 wOBA vs. LH/RH: .368 / .317
  • Career wOBA vs. LH/RH: .353 / .306

The biggest benefit Hairston would provide, besides mashing lefties, would come in pushing Darin Ruf back to Triple-A for a full season. While many fans are anxious to see Ruf prove himself at the Major League level, particularly after 37 impressive plate appearances in September last season, Ruf would benefit from his first taste of Triple-A with very little pressure. Furthermore, the Major League club wouldn’t be punished if it turns out Ruf isn’t able to handle big league pitching as well as advertised.

Hairston is below-average defensively, but is nevertheless much better than Ruf, who only started playing left field last season. The old, slow Phillies won’t have much in the way of speed outside of Jimmy Rollins and Ben Revere, but Hairston can add somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-10 stolen bases depending on his performance and playing time.

With Hairston looking for a similar salary as he received in 2012, somewhere in the neighborhood of $1-2 million, he would be a safe bet for the Phillies, currently with a $152 million payroll.

Ryan Sweeney

  • 2012 Salary: $1.75 million (one year)
  • 2012 wOBA vs. LH/RH: .160 / .310
  • Career wOBA vs. LH/RH: .266 / .330

Sweeney’s production against left-handed pitching is abysmal, so he would have to be part of a platoon, which would necessitate pushing Laynce Nix back into a bench role. Nix, with a career .235/.317 L/R wOBA split, could likely do what Sweeney would do, and the Phillies are already committed to him anyway. Sweeney’s skills, relative to Nix, include better contact (career 15 percent strikeout rate) and better on-base skills (career .338 on-base percentage).

Not Like They Have Any Other Options

Austin Kearns

  • 2012 Salary: $600,000 (one year)
  • 2012 wOBA vs. LH/RH: .277 / .428
  • Career wOBA vs. LH/RH: .341 / .337

Kearns’ days as a regular outfielder are behind him. The 32-year-old hasn’t logged more than 175 plate appearances in a season since 2010. In limited playing time with the Marlins last year, though, he was average with the bat (.331 wOBA) despite a drastic platoon split (he hasn’t shown one over his career). When he’s right, he has excellent plate discipline (career 11 percent walk rate) and on-base skills (career .351 OBP).

Signing Kearns to be part of a platoon isn’t the greatest way to use him, but given how cheap he will be and the assets he would bring, the Phillies could do a lot worse. Bringing Kearns on board as a bench bat would be superb, though.

Delmon Young

  • 2012 Salary: $6.75 million (one year)
  • 2012 wOBA vs. LH/RH: .357 / .282
  • Career wOBA vs. LH/RH: .352 / .309

Young has had some bad off-the-field incidents, but if the Phillies aren’t concerned about that, Young could provide some value as the right-handed side of a corner outfield platoon. Since he started playing regularly in 2007, Young has never been worth more than 1.7 WAR and has three times posted negative WAR, according to FanGraphs. Baseball Reference WAR echoes this. His defense is awful and he doesn’t draw walks, but he can definitely hit lefties. If his price tag drops significantly from his nearly $7 million salary from last season, he might be worth it, but the Phillies’ best best is to stay away.

Ryan Raburn

  • 2012 Salary: $2.1 million (last year of two-year extension)
  • 2012 wOBA vs. LH/RH: .215 / .217
  • Career wOBA vs. LH/RH: .345 / .306

Aside from playing in the outfield corners, Raburn has played some second base as well, so he could be used as an occasional substitute for Chase Utley when the Phillies want to give him a day off. As his career numbers show, he hits lefties well, so an infield that includes Raburn at second, Michael Young at first, and Freddy Galvis at third would be formidable against left-handed starters. Raburn’s career .174 isolated power is among the highest of the remaining free agent outfielders.

However, Raburn had an abysmal 2012 and turns 32 in April. His numbers have been in a steady three-year decline, from a .382 wOBA in 2009 to .356, .316, and .216. Raburn wouldn’t contribute anything else aside from power and hitting lefties as he doesn’t run the bases well and isn’t much on defense.

Bobby Abreu

  • 2012 Salary: $9 million (Angels picked up 2012 option)
  • 2012 wOBA vs. LH/RH: .312 / .309
  • Career wOBA vs. LH/RH: .335 / .385

This would never happen, but it’s fun to think about anyway. Abreu turns 39 in March and is no longer even a double-digit home run threat, but showed even last year that he still has a great eye at the plate. His 14.4 percent walk rate was right under his 14.7 percent career average and he finished with a .350 OBP. In the last five years (post-Barry Bonds era), only nine other players have finished a season with a .350 or better OBP in at least 250 PA at age 38 or older:

Player OBP PA Year Age Tm
Jim Thome .412 340 2010 39 MIN
Manny Ramirez .409 320 2010 38 TOT
Chipper Jones .381 381 2010 38 ATL
Chipper Jones .377 448 2012 40 ATL
Gary Sheffield .372 312 2009 40 NYM
Jim Thome .366 434 2009 38 TOT
Derek Jeter .362 740 2012 38 NYY
Jim Thome .361 324 2011 40 TOT
Melvin Mora .358 354 2010 38 COL
Craig Counsell .357 459 2009 38 MIL
Jorge Posada .357 451 2010 38 NYY
Ken Griffey .353 575 2008 38 TOT
Bobby Abreu .350 257 2012 38 TOT
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/5/2013.

The most surprising thing about Abreu is that, in those five years, he hasn’t missed any significant time due to injuries. In fact, according to Baseball Prospectus, Abreu hasn’t gone on the disabled list since 1997. In all likelihood, Abreu could probably pass muster as an every day player for the Phillies, but his defense is just so bad that he would cancel out any good that he would bring with his bat, which makes him an excellent fit as a bench player similar to Austin Kearns.

Dear God, Why?

Rick Ankiel – Hire him to entertain fans with throws from the outfield before games.

Jeff Baker – Human ellipsis (…)

Michael Bourn – $$$$$$$

Johnny Damon – He’s done. The 39-year-old posted a .271 wOBA last season.

Mark DeRosa – Since 2010: .220 AVG / .309 OBP / .269 SLG. Turns 38 next month.

Ben Francisco – Insanity is…

Kosuke Fukudome – His last name is now more valuable than his on-field production.

Don Kelly – Career .280 wOBA.

Darnell McDonald – The 34-year-old barely crossed the Mendoza line and had a sub-.300 OBP last season.

Scott Podsednik – He’ll be 37 in March and only hits singles.

Juan Rivera – Somehow, the Dodgers agreed to pay him $4 million last season. The 34-year-old rewarded them with a .287 wOBA and -0.8 WAR.


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