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A Look at the Free Agent Market: Outfielders

Ryan Arbour

Ryan Arbour writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

Several quality outfielders have found their way onto the free agent market this offseason. Here’s a look at some of the top names who were given their walking papers:

Carl Crawford (signed by Boston)

Crawford was quite possibly the biggest bat on this year’s free agent market, so it was no surprise that he drew interest from a number of clubs. Though the Angels and Yankees appeared to be the most likely candidates to land the 29-year-old outfielder, it was the Red Sox who ended up with Crawford by offering him a seven-year, $142 million deal to come to Boston. Crawford has been very consistent throughout his career, and he set career highs in runs (110), home runs (19), and RBI (90) in 2010. He has also stolen at least 40 bases seven times in the last eight seasons, making him one of the game’s top speedsters and a fantasy stud. He will be an excellent fit in a Boston lineup that now also includes Adrian Gonzalez.

Jayson Werth (signed by Washington)

The Nationals landed themselves a big bat when they signed Werth to a huge seven-year deal, worth $126 million, before the start of the winter meetings. Over the last three years, Werth has averaged 29 home runs, 84 RBI and 92 runs scored a season while hitting .279. He has also stolen 53 bases over those three years, making him a well-rounded fantasy option. The Nationals are looking to build a contender, and the addition of Werth should help offset the loss of cleanup hitter Adam Dunn.

Vladimir Guerrero

Vlad appeared to be on the decline heading into the 2010 season, but he proved that he is not done just yet. The 35-year-old designated hitter hit .300 with 29 home runs and 115 RBI in his first season with the Rangers and was a key part of the team’s success last season. As expected, he did receive some help from his home ballpark – Guerrero hit .315 at home and.284 on the road - so a move to a less hitter-friendly park might hurt his numbers. However, Guerrero has not ruled out a return to the Rangers. He should still provide some pop in 2011, but his fantasy potential greatly depends on the team he signs (or re-signs) with.

Magglio Ordonez

Injuries limited Ordonez to just 84 games in 2010, but he still showed he could produce when healthy. Ordonez topped the .300 mark in batting average for the fourth consecutive season while driving in 59 runs and hitting 12 long balls in 323 at-bats. He brings a career .312 batting average into the 2011 season, but keep in mind Ordonez will turn 37 before the beginning of next season. He might be better suited for a DH role at this point in his career to avoid winding up on the disabled list again.

Manny Ramirez

Three stints on the disabled list limited Ramirez to just 90 games in 2010, his lowest total since he broke into the Major Leagues in 1993. Ramirez still managed to post a healthy batting average of .298 between the Dodgers and White Sox, but his slugging percentage took a hit, dropping to just .460. That number would be considered pretty decent for most players, but it is well below Manny’s career norm. He can still produce when healthy and focused, so some team is sure to take a chance on him. Ramirez is another aging player who might benefit from being used as the designated hitter with his next club.

Hideki Matsui

Matsui has not driven in 100 runs in a season since 2007, but he still manages to put up decent numbers year-in and year-out. In his only season with the Angels in 2010, “Godzilla” hit .274 with 21 home runs and 84 RBI. Those numbers are by no means remarkable, but they are still good enough to warrant a spot on a fantasy team. At 36 years of age Matsui’s best years are likely behind him, but he should still have enough gas left in the tank to stick around for a few more seasons.

Johnny Damon

Despite a mediocre 2010 season, Damon accomplished an impressive feat by becoming just the fifth player in baseball history to appear in 140 games for 15 consecutive seasons. The other names on that list are Hank Aaron, Brooks Robinson, Pete Rose and Willie Mays, so Damon is keeping pretty good company. After matching his career high in home runs with 24 in 2009, he took a step back and hit just eight while driving in 51 runs in 2010. Damon did hit a respectable .271 but he also posted his lowest stolen base total (11) since his rookie campaign in 1995. The 37-year-old appears to be on the decline, considering he was relegated to mostly DH duty this past season. Damon can still provide some value to a fantasy team, but don’t expect him to be a stolen base threat any longer.

Pat Burrell (re-signed by San Francisco)

Burrell struggled mightily during his stint with the Rays from 2009 to mid-May of 2010. The slugging outfielder averaged 31 home runs and 99 RBI a season over his previous four years in Philadelphia, so Tampa Bay had every reason to believe that he’d contribute. However, in 146 games with the club, Burrell hit just .218 with 16 home runs and 77 RBI, prompting the club to release him. After his departure from Tampa Bay, Burrell signed with the Giants, and a return to the National League seemed to be just what he needed. Burrell hit 18 home runs and drove in 51 runs in 96 games with San Francisco in 2010, and he re-upped with the team for one more year this offseason. The Giants have a logjam of outfielders, so Burrell might not get into the lineup every day. Still, if he receives enough playing time, Burrell should provide some pop if he continues to hit like he did in the second half of 2010.

Scott Podsednik

After two seasons as a backup outfielder in 2007 and 2008, Podsednik has put together a couple strong seasons since his return to full-time duty. In 2009 with the White Sox he hit .304 with 30 stolen bases; and he followed up that performance by hitting .297 with 35 steals in 2010 with the Royals and Dodgers. Podsednik possesses little in terms of power, but he will be a great asset in fantasy leagues that track stolen bases if he lands a full-time role in 2011.

Jack Cust (signed by Seattle)

The Athletics decided not to tender a contract to Cust, allowing him to test the free agent market. Cust’s power numbers took a significant hit last season, but he did up his batting average considerably. From 2007 to 2009, Cust averaged 28 home runs and 76 RBI per season, but he posted a batting average of just .241 over that span. After failing to make the Athletics’ opening day roster in 2010, he smacked just 13 home runs in 112 games, but he also hit at a .272 clip. Deciding he did not want to travel far, Cust agreed to a contract with the Mariners under the assumption he will be the team’s full-time DH. If he does manage to receive the regular playing time he expects, Cust should hit well enough, in terms of both average and power, to help out a fantasy team.

The rest:

There aren’t too many other quality outfield bats available, but one or several of the players below might surprise next season. Here’s the rest of the list (including players who were recently non-tendered):

Rick Ankiel, Rocco Baldelli, Willie Bloomquist, Travis Buck, Melky Cabrera, Chris Carter, Ryan Church, Matt Diaz (signed by Pittsburgh), Jim Edmonds, Jose Guillen, Tony Gwynn (signed by LA Dodgers), Scott Hairston, Bill Hall, Willie Harris, Brad Hawpe, Eric Hinske (re-signed by Atlanta), Joe Inglett, Reed Johnson, Andruw Jones, Gabe Kapler, Austin Kearns, Fred Lewis, Kevin Mench, Lastings Milledge, Corey Patterson, Jay Payton, Matt Stairs, Marcus Thames, Eugenio Velez, Randy Winn, and Delwyn Young