While it’s mid-December and the left field situation is still unresolved in Atlanta, there are plenty of candidates remaining to fill the spot. Nick Swisher is probably the only starter-quality corner outfielder available in free agency, while trade targets like Corey Hart, Alex Gordon, and other players have been discussed quite a bit the past month. I’d like to visit some players that were only mentioned in passing or not even talked about yet.
Coco Crisp is likely positioned as the 4th outfielder for Oakland currently, with their acquisition of Chris Young. At 33 years old, he is owed $7M this year and has a $7.5M team option for 2014 with a $1M buyout. He has a lot of the prototypical leadoff qualities: switch-hitter, high-contact approach, ability to steal 40 bases, and is able to draw walks. His .259/.325/.418 (106 wRC+) slashline last year was decent, despite a seemingly unlucky .280 BABIP. His batted ball profile is almost exactly league average, so you would expect his BABIP to be around .300, which would have bumped his line to around .275/.340/.435, which I would be more than happy to receive. Even if you think his .159 ISO is a bit high, he rates as an above-average hitter who should be a good corner outfielder.
The Braves cannot strengthen the Oakland big-league team much, as the A’s main weakness is in their middle infield, especially shortstop. However, the Braves have pitching to trade that could be used in a package for Oakland to acquire a decent SS. Given their minimal payrolls the past 15 years, I assume a $7M fourth outfielder is not fiscally wise in their situation and a trade is likely. Crisp would fill Atlanta’s leadoff spot at a reasonable price.
David DeJesus is very similar to Crisp, except the high-end speed is not there. They both have the same BB and K rates while hitting a similar distribution of LD/GB/FB. I would expect something around a .275/.345/.410 line, a bit above league average, and average to above-average defense in LF. At $4.25M this coming year and $6.5M in ’14 with a $1.5M buyout, he is another reasonably-priced player able to provide starting-quality results. His results against lefties are a bit concerning, but at this point, players without deficiencies are not typically available. The Cubs could use some young pitching, which the Braves would be able to provide that.
Someone not mentioned at all who may be available is Pirates OF Jose Tabata. He signed a long pre-arbitration which still has four years remaining, but at $13M total, it would not set back the organization much, as he should be able to fill the role of Reed Johnson at worst. The right-handed bat has shown similar plate discipline skills to Crisp and DeJesus, but his batted ball profile is groundball-heavy. His career LD/GB/FB line is 17/61/22, so his .100 ISO is unlikely to increase until that GB% drops. A fairly unlucky .287 BABIP resulted in an empty .243 average, but I project a .275/.345/.375 line, a bit below Crisp and DeJesus, but manageable for the leadoff spot. As he has already been labeled as the fourth outfielder by their GM, a decent offer should be able to pry him away from Pittsburgh.
None of these players are difference makers, but their impact could expand beyond just their own play. Landing a full-time left fielder would allow the Braves to trade Juan Francisco for some other needed piece, Johnson could fill his proper 4th OF role, and Martin Prado could stay in one spot all season. While a leadoff hitter isn’t necessarily needed, the lineup would likely get unconventional with another 6-spot hitter acquired. I have no problem with unconventional, but we all know Fredi does, so to avoid putting an offensive burden on Andrelton Simmons by putting him at or near the top of the order, one of these players could be alleviate that pressure.