It's been a slow couple of weeks for baseball fans in Twins Territory, as we wait for news of a third baseman sighting or maybe a Joe Mauer extension. But this is something of an under-rated question for the off-season check list: who will the Twins have as their fourth outfielder in 2010?
I'm already assuming that, left to right, Ron Gardenhire's outfield will be Delmon Young, Denard Span and Michael Cuddyer. You could jot Jason Kubel down as the fourth outfielder, but I'm happy to pencil him in as simply "DH". Right now there is no obvious answer for that fourth guy because there's nobody left to backup Denard in center field.
Aug 13, 1979
Remember this guy? He had a couple of decent offensive seasons with the Cubs a few years back but his value was in his defense. In 2004 he was one of the best center fielders around (33.8 UZR/150), and even outside of that season he was always a guy who fielded his position very well. It seems he should be a lot older considering how long he's been playing, but the guy just turned 30.
Patterson wouldn't have been a bad option, if he hadn't already signed a minor league contract with the Mariners. So who else fits the bill?
|2009 - Coco Crisp||49||180||30||41||8||5||3||14||29||23||13||2||.228||.336||.378|
Crisp is just 30 as well, and managed to perform a pretty solid disappearing act in Kansas City last year. He's played a lot of outfield over the years, and in general he's done it well. Like Patterson he's not really a threat with the bat in his hands, and he hasn't been able to duplicate the success of his 2005 breakout season, but his value is in his glove and his ability to backup a position that nobody on the major league roster could do for the Twins. At least, nobody that you'd want out there for any kind of an extended period of time.
Unfortunately it looks like Crisp will be off the market shortly, as the Athletics have been tied to him over the last few days.
|2009 - Rocco Baldelli||62||150||23||38||4||1||7||23||11||37||1||0||.253||.311||.433|
Baldelli just turned 28 at the end of the season, and again it's hard to believe after all he's been through. He's lucky to still be playing the game after his medical condition was mid-diagnosed, and he's a long time removed from finishing 3rd in rookie of the year voting (2003) and from his last solid offensive season (2006). In spite of those red flags there is some upside with Baldelli; he's younger than most of the guys on this list, he's versatile and he's likely to come at a bargain rate.
I like Baldelli. If only so I can cheer for a guy called Rocko (hey, no more Boof). But clearly there's got to be a guy out there who doesn't have that kind of a rap sheet on health.
|2009 - Scott Podsednik||132||537||75||163||25||6||7||48||39||74||30||13||.304||.353||.412|
Pods is coming off one of his best seasons at the dish, and in spite of turning 34 in March is probably one of the best free agent players of the profile we're looking for. That career .340 OBP isn't great, but there's a lot worse around. Traditionally his defense isn't a good as most of the guys on this list, but he has two things that play in his favor: he played all three outfield positions in 2009, and he's very fast. Anytime you can close a gap, that's a good thing. And like John Madden used to say, you can't teach speed. Actually he probably still says that.
Podsednik is not a starter. But he does have value as a fourth outfielder, and I think you could do a lot worse.
|2009 - Endy Chavez||54||161||17||44||3||1||2||13||14||22||9||1||.273||.328||.342|
Chavez turns 32 in February and, in spite of being a decent contact hitter, doesn't have a lot of value at the plate. He does have good speed, but (and you might be picking up on a trend here) his value lies in his defense. Over the course of his career he's logged hundreds of innings at all three outfield positions and, as a general rule, he's played all three at a high level.
Obviously because of his offense (career 75 OPS+) this isn't a guy you want to expose a great deal at the plate. Also, there should be some concern over how his knee is after tearing his ACL last June. But as far as defensive options on this list go, Chavez might be the best one.
Apr 27, 1982
Gathright is one of those guys who has some good tools, and either hasn't learned how to use them or they just aren't as good as we were told they were. He had a great year in part time with the Royals in 2007, but in general has been underwhelming in terms of performance. But again, he's quick and he plays all three outfield positions. He's good at stealing bases.
|2009 - Randy Winn||149||538||65||141||33||5||2||51||47||93||16||2||.262||.318||.353|
This is a popular guy, and I don't really expect him to sign with a team that won't start him everyday, but at this point in his career I have to wonder if he's at a crossroads. He'll turn 36 in June and, although he put up good offensive numbers for the Giants in '07 and '08, he's clearly not the player he was in his prime.
Winn can play all three outfield positions, and if he's looking to sign with a team with a legitimate chance for October, if he's looking to sign with a good team for a lesser role to get that shot at a ring, then maybe this is something he considers. If the price is right, Winn would be my choice of anyone on this list.
#11 / Center Field / Minnesota Twins
Oct 09, 1983
Then there's the internal option. Pridie is younger than anyone on this list, just turning 26 in August. He can backup Denard in center field, he has a little pop in his bat, and I have to believe he'll be playing with something to prove. But he strikes out way too much at the minor league level, is allergic to getting on base, and has no major league track record to show what he can bring to a club with any certainty.
Would you sign any of these guys? How much of a concern is a fourth outfielder to you at this point?