Will teams looking to trade for outfielders hurt the remaining OF free agents?
The Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez is suddenly on the trading block. Teams looking at Gonzalez include the Washington Nationals, St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants, all of whom could desperately use an outfielder (or two).
Gonzalez started out slow in 2015, coming off of an injury plagued 2014, but had such a strong second half that he was able to rebuild his trade value. April and May were terrible for Gonzalez who hit just .219 with four homers. He picked it up starting in June and finished the season with 31 homers and a slash line of .271/.325/.540. Now he’s starting to look like a very attractive alternative to signing big-name free agents like Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Gordon and Justin Upton.
After the Chicago Cubs signed Jason Heyward to a seven-year, $184 million contract most believed, including ESPN’s Jerry Crasnik, that the dominoes would begin to fall. However, not unlike other free agent pitchers were supposed to start signing all over the place after the signing of Zack Greinke by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
So far the majority of the free-agent dominoes are still standing, especially free agent outfielders. $100 million-plus is quite a bit for an outfielder who isn’t named Jason Heyward and teams are seemingly beginning to realize that making a trade might be the more prudent way to go.
Gonzalez, for example, has just two years left on his contract. In 2016 he’ll make $17 million next season and $20 million in 2020. He’s a perfect short-term option. The team who may eventually take on Gonzalez would only be responsible for two years and a lot less money if their outfielder, be it Gonzalez or another trade target. That’s a bit less intimidating to take on than an outfielder for six or seven years and over $100 million. If there was a major injury that team would be in real trouble whereas Gonzalez, despite his injury history, would not be remotely as big a risk.
Some may also point to Gonzalez’s home and away splits as evidence that he’s only considered a power bat because he’s been playing at the high-altitude stadium of Coors Field. However, get him away from that and his statistics should even out. Regardless of the altitude, he’s still a power bat and good defender at the corner outfield positions. He doesn’t hit lefties well but in the long run the risk is still significantly lower than signing an expensive free agent.
Of course a lot also depends on what the Rockies are looking for in return for Gonzalez, which team has what they want, and whether or not they are willing to part with the pieces it will cost. Likely the Rockies will be looking for prospects and the Nationals, Cardinals and Giants can probably provide them. Other teams will probably emerge from the woodwork to inquire about Gonzalez, just like there are other trade-able outfielders teams may begin to inquire about.
So far the facts are that even big market teams like the Giants, Nats and Cards, are seemingly uninterested in those free agent dominoes that are still standing. The question is then will other teams follow suit and look to make a trade? When will the dominoes really start to fall? And if they do, will they contracts be as high as they expect them to be?
This could get interesting … or just fun! But I guess that depends on who you are in the grand scheme of things. Personally, I’m going to find this all fun and fascinating as always.
*Other potential landing spots for CarGo:
- Los Angeles Angels
- Baltimore Orioles