Corner Outfield Trade Candidates

As the day pitchers and catchers report approaches (only 16 days!), the Jays' most glaring hole is their need of another corner outfielder (likely a right fielder because Cito is dumb and won't stick Snider there) or someone who could DH, which would push Lind to prancing around like a girl in the outfield. The notable free agents that people have been talking about are Johnny Damon and this baseballlog's own patriarch, Carlos Delgado. Now, while I would love for the Jays to sign either of these two guys, perhaps it would be in their best interest to take a shot on someone younger.

What I did was, I looked at all 30 teams' 40 man rosters, and I looked for whichever outfielders were blocked at the major league level, and were likely considered to be non-prospects by their parent organization but have had enough minor league success to warrant a major league roster spot. Preference was given to right fielders (because Cito is dumb) who were also left-handed so they could platoon with Jose Bautista to maximize offence.

In no particular order, here are the 4 best, realistically acquirable outfielders who fit the Jays' needs:

Travis Buck

Buck will be 26 next year, and was already going to have trouble finding playing time in Oakland with the A's presumably going with an opening day outfield of Rajai Davis, Coco Crisp, and Ryan Sweeney, relegating Buck to a backup role. But with Oakland's signing of Gabe Gross a few days ago, this means Buck is likely AAA-bound to start the season.

Buck's had a rough go of it in the majors the last couple of years, hitting .223/.289/.392 in 287 plate appearances, however he still raked in AAA in '08 and poorly in '09, though this was primarily babip-driven as his BB%, K%, and ISO were all near his minor league averages.

Buck's upside is pretty good, considering his last healthy season had him hitting .288/.377/.474 in majors and putting up 2.3 WAR in only 82 games (!). He rates as above average at both outfield corners according to UZR (sample size warning), though his ARM rating rates as below average in right. He also fits the left-handed requirement.

Buck's comes with a big warning flag, though. He suffered a concussion sliding into the outfield wall on June 30, 2008 and has been put on the DL with post-concussion syndrome two different times since then, as recently as October 5th of this past season.

Josh Reddick

Reddick plays in the Red Sox system and isn't a prospect (he didn't make Keith Law's Red Soz top 10) , so his future lies with a different organization anyway. He has a .291/.343/.512 line in the minors. The power is encouraging, though his inability to draw walks means he might be destined to be a 4th outfield. Of course, he'll only be 23 next season, so he has plenty of time to improve.

He's split his time more or less equally between right and center field in the minors, so I would assume he is a good defender. Eyeballing his minor league Total Zone ratings suggests he is slightly below average in right and poor in center, however.

He's also left-handed, but he holds a neutral platoon split in the minors (actually slightly reverse: OPS of .864 vs. LHP, .850 vs. RHP), which actually isn't preferable for our purposes, since it would lead to an inefficient platoon with Bautista.

John Bowker

On the downside, he'll be 26 next year. On the upside, he's left-handed and rakes minor league pitching. While his career minor league line of .301/.369/.489 is decent by itself, he showed huge improvement in 2009 in AAA. He struck out at a career-low rate of  17.5% and more than doubled his walk rate from the previous season, going from 6.9% to 16.4% (!!). For reference, Adam Dunn's career walk rate is 16.9%. His overall AAA '09 line was .342/.451/.596, with a Major League Equivalent of .294/387/.502 against RHP.

Bowker has played mostly right field in the minors, though he also has experience in center and at first. His minor league Total Zone numbers suggest he is above average in right field.

Delmon Young

Man, Delmon sure is terrible isn't he? Anyone reading this should be more than aware of Delmon, so I won't bother going over his stats. He'll only be 24 next season, and it wasn't too long ago that he was considered the #1 prospect in baseball. He's right-handed, is a terrible fielder, and hasn't played in right since 2007. In these regards, he is sub-optimal for the Jays' immediate needs, but he easily has the highest upside of any of the other 3. He'll make $2.6MM next season and he's only 3 years from free agency, so if he breaks out, he won't be cheap for long.

I'm not sure how willing Minnesota would be to move Delmon, despite getting rid of him would immediately improve the team, opening up left field for Kubel and allowing Thome to be the everyday DH.

In Closing

If given the choice, I would really like to see Anthopoulos acquire John Bowker and stick him in a right field platoon with Bautista. He's the most well-rounded player and he showed real, tangible improvement in 2009. The only difficulty I see in trading for him, is that SF might want him to compete for an outfield job in ST.