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2021-2022 Offseason Preview: The Corner Outfield Market

Looking at the corner outfielders in free agency and on the trade market.

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Division Series - San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Three Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images

With option decisions having been made and the five-day window after the World Series closed, we are now officially in free agency and player movement should be upon us. (The CBA situation is likely to slow down that progress, but players can change teams now.) For the coming week, every day we will look at a new position group of free agents and trade candidates, finding some who may or may not be fits for the Boston Red Sox this winter. Note that this is not a complete list of free agents and trade targets. Today we look at the corner outfielders available.

Where the Red Sox stand now

It is, in a way, up to the Red Sox where the Red Sox stand in the outfield corners. They could very well stand pat, with Alex Verdugo playing left field and Hunter Renfroe in right, Jarren Duran also hanging out as potential depth for either spot. Both Verdugo and Renfroe were solid in 2021, and they are quality starting major-league outfielders even if expecting production bordering on star-level is a bit much. On the other hand, the Red Sox could look to move one of those guys, as each has multiple years of team control remaining and could potentially fetch pitching help on the trade market. Especially since both Verdugo and Renfroe can play right field, it feels to me at least that the best course of action is to at least explore the trade markets for each, and if a good deal is on the table then moving one of them and signing a big bat for left field could improve the whole roster.

Free Agents

2021 numbers and team(s) in parentheses

  • Nick Castellanos (CIN; 585 PA, .309/.362/.576, 140 wRC+, 4.2 fWAR)
  • Kris Bryant (CHC/SFG; 586 PA, .265/.353/.481, 123 wRC+, 3.6 fWAR)
  • Kyle Schwarber (WSH/BOS; 471 PA, .266/.374/.554, 145 wRC+, 3.1 fWAR)
  • Mark Canha (OAK; 625 PA, .231/.358/.387, 115 wRC+, 2.6 fWAR)
  • Nelson Cruz (MIN/TB; 584 PA, .265/.334/.497, 122 wRC+, 2.0 fWAR)
  • Tommy Pham (SD; 561 PA, .229/.340/.383, 102 wRC+, 1.5 fWAR)
  • Andrew McCutchen (PHI; 574 PA, .222/.334/.444, 107 wRC+, 1.2 fWAR)
  • Eddie Rosario (MIN/ATL; 412 PA, .259/.305/.435, 98 wRC+, 0.9 fWAR)
  • Corey Dickerson (MIA/TOR; 365 PA, .271/.326/.408, 100 wRC+, 0.8 fWAR)
  • Joc Pederson (CHC/ATL; 481 PA, .238/.310/.422, 94 wRC+, 0.6 fWAR)

If the Red Sox were to look to move one of their current corner outfielders to potentially improve the offense, there are certainly some options. The more I’ve thought about it, the more intrigued I’ve been by Bryant as a fit with Boston. He could fill left field in the short-term, and he would be an internal option to move to third base if they did get to the point where they were moving Rafael Devers. He’s also been connected to Boston in the past. Castellanos could be another one, though he’s more of a DH so they’d have to hope he could be hidden in some way by the Green Monster. Schwarber, of course, also fits here.

There are some intriguing options in the next tier as well, though not necessarily as starters. I have always been a big Canha fan and I think he would probably be the second-tier player I would target from this group. He’s a right-handed bat, so if you wanted to ease Jarren Duran into more playing time later in the year he’d be a nice partner in left field. Canha can also play any of the three outfield spots in a pinch. Rosario, Dickerson, and Pederson are all also intriguing, but they would be more as platoon partners with Hunter Renfroe, and I don’t see them wanting to use Renfroe as the short end in a platoon. So while I like the players in a vacuum, the fits with Boston are less ideal.

Potential Trade Partners

  • Seattle Mariners: The Mariners have a bunch of outfield talent ready to make impacts in the majors, which could put Mitch Haniger on the block.
  • Minnesota Twins: It’s not entirely clear to me what Minnesota’s plan is for 2022, but if they are selling off some veterans Max Kepler could become available.
  • New York Mets: We talked a bit about Dominic Smith in the corner infield post, and he could also fill in at left field as well.
  • Arizona Diamondbacks: David Peralta has always been underrated and he could be an under-the-radar trade target for this winter.
  • Pittsburgh Pirates: I don’t know if it will be this winter, but Bryan Reynolds should be available at some point and would be a top-tier outfield target. Less intriguing, but still useful, would be Ben Gamel.
  • Cincinnati Reds: Everyone who makes any money at all could be available here. Jesse Winker would be the prize if available, and Tyler Naquin could be intriguing as well.
  • Detroit Tigers: It seems like they are ready to build up rather than tear down, but if Robbie Grossman becomes available he’d be worth a phone call.
  • Colorado Rockies: He’s not the player he once was, but if Charlie Blackmon were available as a straight salary dump it’s worth considering.
  • Baltimore Orioles: Anthony Santander is probably getting to the age where he’s more valuable as a trade chip than waiting for their next contention window.

As always, there could certainly be more than this made available, but of these names there are a bunch that I would be interested in. Peralta might actually be my favorite, though it would probably have to be paired with a Verdugo trade rather than Renfroe just to avoid the corner group being too left-handed. The same could be said for Kepler. On the right-handed side, Reynolds is a switch-hitter with perfectly even splits from both sides. He’d cost a ton in terms of prospects, but he has the production to match. Grossman would be a nice second-tier target as well, but as mentioned above the Tigers are more likely to buy this winter. Haniger and his big power could be a very nice match as well.