Outfield free agents are a priority for Houston. Springer’s future is obviously the highest profile decision to make, but whether he extends his stay in Texas or pens a contract elsewhere, the Astros need outfielder reinforcements.
There are big contracts on the books and others are awaiting a payday. Financial caution would not be surprising. If Springer is deemed too costly, or if he is signed to a big deal, Houston will be looking for cheaper outfielders, looking to the names not getting the attention they perhaps deserve.
Here are three low-cost, high-upside outfielders the Astros should consider.
Pederson is limited as a defender. He’s unplayable against lefties. What he does do, though, he does as well as anyone in the sport. Very few hitters are as dangerous against right-handers as Pederson. Where roster flexibility is valuable, and useful for managers, a hitter like Pederson is a great way to find value.
Like with a lot of players, it’s easy to focus on what he can’t do. He’s not an elite defender, nor is he an everyday player. Pederson could end up being undervalued this offseason – the Astros should be ready to take advantage.
The stock of Domingo Santana has fluctuated wildly. He looked destined for All-Stardom after a 30-homer season in 2017. Since underwhelming in 60 plate appearances for the Astros in the first half of the last decade, Santana has shone in Milwaukee, been good in Seattle and flopped in Cleveland.
Santana is a nice buy-low candidate. Houston might not even need to offer him a Major League roster spot.
There’s significant swing-and-miss in his approach (bottom 3% in strikeout rate in 2019), but when he makes contact, it tends to be loud. Santana posted elite expected weighted on base average on contact in 2019.
The defence is dodgy (-13 outs above average in 2019), which might put the Astros off him, but Houston should take a chance on Santana even if he spends the majority of his time at DH. He’s a guy who can provide solid offence and plenty of power – the Astros need cheap bats alongside the expensive core of Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa.
Jackie Bradley Jr
If Springer is too costly, Jackie Bradley Jr. is the obvious alternative. JBJ is the only other starting centre fielder in free agency, and he’ll be available for a fraction of what Springer will command – a two-year and $20 million deal will likely be enough to get Bradley’s signature.
The Red Sox centre fielder is legitimately top-tier as a defender. While Bradley’s bat has flashed hot streaks and promise of being above-average, he’s tended to settle somewhere around 90 wRC+. That’s not ideal, but it’s excusable for a player who ranked 99th percentile in outs above average last season.
How does a Bradley, Pederson and Tucker outfield look? A right-handed bat like Santana would be a nice complement to Pederson, and though it gives them three lefties, Tucker has no platoon disadvantage in the Majors so far.