There's a some talent here, although precious few players in the prime of their careers. This is one area where a team can take a few fliers, even though there are just a couple of jewels. There's more available in the corner spots than in center, which is to be expected. A look at the top 10:
1. Carlos Beltran: He's not what he was the last time he hit the open market, when he went from the Astros to the Mets at the very young (for a free agent) age of 27. He had a seven-year deal with the Mets, who traded him to the Giants. Then, Beltran had some upside, and he showed it with several solid seasons in New York. But by the end of the deal he became injury-prone, with the bad knees to prove it. He still hit .300 with 22 homers last season, but he's not a real stolen-base threat anymore and is now a corner outfielder.
2. Josh Willingham: Everybody's favorite trade deadline target is the best power bat available among the outfielders this season. Willingham drove in 98 runs last year, which is quite a feat these days in Oakland. He also hit a career-best 29 homers, another great feat for that ballpark. He could certainly get more than 30 in a smaller ballpark with similar production, and he won't need a really long-term deal to get him, either. Willingham made $6 million last season.
3. Jason Kubel: Like Michael Cuddyer, Kubel has to decide whether to stick it out with the rebuilding Twins or try somewhere else. He's an underrated corner outfield option at age 29, with some pop he hit 28 homers and drove in 103 just two years ago. He needs to improve his on-base percentage, but if a middle-market team wants a solid No. 6 hitter for a reasonable deal, Kubel will be a target.
4. Grady Sizemore: Maybe the most interesting free agent on the entire market. The small-market Indians had an $8.5 million option on this former All-Star, who was the face of their franchise for much of the past decade. But he's had microfracture surgery on his knees and several other minor ailments, and he's only played sparingly in the past two years. The Indians would like him back, but at a smaller salary. He'll have to see if there are better suitors elsewhere.
5. David DeJesus: Picking a bad year to have an off-year, DeJesus hit .240 with 10 homers in his walk year. He's played virtually his whole career in anonymity in Kansas City and last season in Oakland, but he's a .284 career hitter who will be just 32 in December. He'll start somewhere for a team banking that his poor 2011 was an aberration.
6. Coco Crisp: Stole 49 bases for the A's, which certainly isn't bad for a 31-year-old. He, like Beltran and Sizemore, has had trouble staying in the lineup because of injuries. Capable of hitting a few homers and batting in the high .200s and getting on base reasonably well, he's a stop-gap or fourth outfielder on a contender these days.
7. Cody Ross: The Giants' postseason hero of 2010 is just 30 and hitting the open market for the first time. Bet he wishes he could have cashed in last season, as he hit .240 with 14 homers for the Giants in 2011. He would be a fit as a No. 7 hitter for a team willing to give him another shot, but remember that the Marlins totally gave up on him, waiving him in the midseason in 2010. He might never be that good again.
8. Ryan Ludwick: He was an All-Star in 2008 with the Cardinals, but has bounced around since then and had a poor season in 2011, batting .237 with 13 homers in San Diego and Pittsburgh, which obtained him at the deadline. At 33 he should have some good years left, but teams will want to see a track record before they open the vault.
9. Johnny Damon: Maybe he should be highter on the list, but he's 37 and not much of a fielder anymore. But he came up with plenty of big hits for the Rays last season, and hit 16 homers, batting .261. He's a savvy player and a good veteran influence, so a young team with hopes of contending - such as the Rays were last season - would be a nice fit.
10. Nate McLouth: Seemed to be a start in the making just a few years ago, when he hit 26 homers and had 46 doubles for the Pirates in 2008. But he never got it going in three seasons with the Braves, and is now looking like a fourth outfielder somewhere. He raised his average 38 points in 2011, but that got him to .228. he's only hit 10 homers in his last 164 games, too.
Others: Michael Cuddyer is listed as a first baseman, but is a quite capable corner outfielder and would rank high on this list.
Ages are as of Opening Day 2012.
Free Agent Outfielders
|Name||Age||2011 team||2011 stats||2012 team||Contract|
|Rick Ankiel||32||Nationals||.239, 9 HR, 37 RBI||Nationals||minors|
|Carlos Beltran||34||Giants||.300, 22 HR, 84 RBI||Cardinals||2 yrs, $26M|
|Milton Bradley||33||Mariners||.218, 2 HR, 13 RBI||not signed|
|Pat Burrell||35||Giants||.230, 7 HR, 21 RBI||Retired|
|Mike Cameron||39||Marlins||.203, 9 HR, 27 RBI||Nationals||minors|
|Coco Crisp||31||A's||.264, 8 HR, 54 RBI||A's||2 yrs, $14M|
|Jack Cust||33||Mariners||.213, 3 HR, 23 RBI||Astros||1 yr, $600,000|
|Johnny Damon||38||Rays||.261, 16 HR, 73 RBI||not signed|
|David DeJesus||32||A's||.240, 10 HR, 46 RBI||Cubs||2 yrs, $10M|
|J.D. Drew||36||Red Sox||.222, 4 HR, 22 RBI||Retired|
|Kosuke Fukudome||34||Indians||.262, 8 HR, 35 RBI||White Sox||1 yr, $1M|
|Jonny Gomes||31||Nationals||.209, 14 HR, 43 RBI||Nationals||1 yr, $1M|
|Scott Hairston||31||Mets||.235, 7 HR, 24 RBI||Mets||1 yr, $1.1M|
|Bill Hall||31||Giants||.211, 2 HR, 14 RBI||Yankees||not signed|
|Willie Harris||33||Mets||.246, 2 HR, 23 RBI||Reds||minors|
|Raul Ibanez||39||Phillies||.245, 20 HR, 84 RBI||not signed|
|Reed Johnson||35||Cubs||.309, 5 HR, 28 RBI||Cubs||1 yr, $1.15M|
|Andruw Jones||34||Yankees||.247, 13 HR, 33 RBI||Yankees||1 yr, $2M|
|Austin Kearns||31||Indians||.200, 2 HR, 7 RBI||Marlins||minors|
|Mark Kotsay||36||Brewers||.270, 3 HR, 31 RBI||Padres||1 yr, $1.25M|
|Jason Kubel||29||Twins||.273, 12 HR, 58 RBI||Diamondbacks||2 yrs, $15M|
|Ryan Ludwick||33||Pirates||.237, 13 HR, 75 RBI||Reds||1 yr, $2.5M|
|Nate McLouth||30||Braves||.228, 4 HR, 16 RBI||Pirates||1 yr, $1.75M|
|Jason Michaels||35||Astros||.199, 2 HR, 10 RBI||Nationals||minors|
|Laynce Nix||31||Nationals||.250, 16 HR, 44 RBI||Phillies||2 yrs, $2.5M|
|Magglio Ordonez||38||Tigers||.255, 5 HR, 32 RBI||not signed|
|Corey Patterson||32||Cardinals||.239, 6 HR, 36 RBI||Brewers||minors|
|Wily Mo Pena||30||Mariners||.204, 7 HR, 15 RBI||Japan||2 yrs, $5M|
|Felix Pie||27||Orioles||.220, 0 HR, 7 RBI||Indians||minors|
|Juan Pierre||34||White Sox||.279, 2 HR, 50 RBI||Phillies||minors|
|Juan Rivera||33||Dodgers||.258, 11 HR, 74 RBI||Dodgers||1 yr, $4.5M|
|Cody Ross||31||Giants||.240, 14 HR, 52 RBI||Red Sox||1 yr, $3M|
|Aaron Rowand||34||Giants||.233, 4 HR, 21RBI||Marlins||minors|
|Grady Sizemore||29||Indians||.224, 10 HR, 32 RBI||Indians||1 yr, $5M|
|Matt Stairs||44||Nationals||.154, 0 HR, 2 RBI||Retired|
|Marcus Thames||35||Dodgers||.197, 2 HR, 7 RBI||not signed|
|Josh Willingham||33||A's||.246, 29 HR, 98 RBI||Twins||3 yrs, $21M|
|Dewayne Wise||34||Blue Jays||.202, 2 HR, 7 RBI||Yankees||minors|