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Hot Stove Pre-Heat: Left Fielders Left on the Free Agent Market

The Free Agent Market is hopping with options around the diamond and left field offers no shortage of talent ahead of the 2021 season.

Braves OF Marcel Ozuna doubles in the first inning by All-Pro Reels is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Hot Stove Pre-Heat: Left Fielders Left on the Free Agent Market

Estimated Reading Time: 7 Minutes

Every year MLB goes through its offseason, pretty much like every other sport. The NBA offseason is about what Super Teams will be formed, the NFL offseason tends to swirl around the new blood entering the league. But Major League Baseball’s offseason takes a while to get going. One of my favorite baseball terms is “Hot Stove.” You’ll hear a lot of baseball fans talking about “Hot Stove Season” and how it’s starting to heat up.

The term “Hot Stove” comes from the idea of the “Hot Stove League,” the offseason gathering of fans around a hot stove during the winter, getting warm and talking baseball. It doesn’t get any more Americana than that, y’all. Just sitting around a hot stove in the dead of winter, talking baseball. Doesn’t that sound lovely?

Well, this year we’re starting early. We’re preheating things early on so that when this stove gets hot, we’re already cooking. Today, let’s start by looking at some of the most interesting Left Field options on the Free Agent market.

Michael Brantley – Free Agent

After starting his career in Cleveland, Brantley inked a 2 year, $32 million dollar contract with the Houston Astros after the 2018 season. It turned out to be a wise investment for the club. He was a reliable, steady bat in the lineup, hitting a combined .309 BA, .370 OBP, and .497 SLG over his two seasons, with a playoff slash line just as impressive. Defensively he proved just as valuable, though injuries over the years have begun ever so slightly to take their toll. Even at 34 though, his ability with the leather is still an asset.

Given his consistent production at the plate and his ability with the glove, there should be no shortage of suitors for Brantley heading into next season. He is a left handed bat who hits to contact and isn’t a liability in the field. If MLB adopts the universal DH, that would only increase the number of possible landing spots for Brantley.

However, I think there’s a good chance he stays put. If the Astros move on from Springer to focus resources elsewhere, they’ll want to keep Brantley for fear of losing both players. Further – given the success he’s had there, maybe he’d be willing to work out a team-friendly deal enabling Houston to hold onto him AND Springer.

Predicted Team: Houston Astros

Predicted Contract: 2 years, $36 Million

Jay Bruce – Free Agent

The headline with Bruce is injuries. He’s made as many trips to the injured list in two seasons with the Phillies as some minor leaguers do for a “cup of coffee” with the big club.’

When on the field, his calling card is power, and he showed some of that promise early in the 2020 season. Unfortunately, the injury bug bit, and when he returned he wasn’t the same. I think his clubhouse presence and contributions with the bat when healthy are appealing enough to land him a deal, though I’m not entirely sure where he may fit best. The final decision about a universal DH (which seems likely to be adopted) will expand the list of teams that may be interested in his services, and I think Philly will be amongst those teams. If they can bring him back on a one-year deal, why not?

Predicted Team: Philadelphia Phillies

Predicted Contract: 1 year, $1.5 Million

Brett Gardner – Free Agent

I’m basing my analysis here on loyalty. Gardner has been a Yankee since Day One. Sure, the front office rejected the club option for 2021, but it seems likely that the two sides will come to a mutual agreement. His tenure in pinstripes, clubhouse presence, and flexibility in the outfield (he can play left and center) all make sense as reasons to keep him. When you look at how injury-prone some other Yankee outfielders have been of late, having his bat and glove at the ready is an added bonus.

This will ultimately come down to the money. Gardner’s already got $2.5M from the buyout of his option, but if another team sees his value as an above-average fielder batting from the left side, then there may be additional suitors. In the end, I think a deal does get struck and Gardner will follow in the steps of Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter.

Predicted Team: New York Yankees

Predicted Contract: 1 year, $7.5 Million

Robbie Grossman – Free Agent

Grossman is a career .252 hitter who tends to be OK at getting on base. A big jump in slugging this past season (albeit over a shortened schedule) is encouraging. However, the more appealing aspect he offers is likely his defensive ability. He was recently a Gold Glove finalist and could appeal to teams looking for OF depth. ESPN has linked Grossman to Kansas City as a potential replacement for Alex Gordon. Cost may be the deciding factor. The Royals have options in their system, so they may decide to see what they have instead of shopping outside. If they go that route, I think Oakland will welcome him back to the fold.

Predicted Team: Kansas City Royals

Predicted Contract: 1 year, $3 Million

Marcell Ozuna – Free Agent

As a Mets fan, I’m intrigued to hear Ozuna’s name linked to my club. He had an off the charts year for Atlanta last season. If we can land him AND take him away from the Braves – even better. However, I think the Mets will prioritize other areas and Ozuna will likely not head to Flushing.

Having said that, I fear he will likely return to Atlanta. Why wouldn’t he? He was Josh Donaldson 2.0 – a guy brought in on a one year deal who made the most of it. Having him in their lineup with Freeman, Acuna, Albies and the rest landed them the NL East title. It almost got them to the World Series.

There will likely be no shortage of suitors, especially if the universal DH is adopted. Regardless of where he lands, he’s likely to land the big payday he has been seeking. He only just turned 30 so a multi-year deal is on the horizon.

Predicted Team: Atlanta Braves

Predicted Contract: 4 years, $75 Million

Joc Pederson – Free Agent

Since being drafted by the Dodgers back in 2010 Pederson has been a reliable platoon player. He can play all around the outfield and is a reliable bat against righties. However, his 2020 season may lower his value a bit.

He’s never really been able to hit lefties well, but he usually mashes against right handers. Teams looking for depth in the outfield who don’t want to break the bank will likely give Joc a look. He could land a 2 or 3-year deal. That would give him a chance to test the market again early in his 30s. The south side of Chicago is a possibility, but given my luck, he’ll probably land in Washington. That would make life miserable for me when he visits CitiField.

Predicted Team: Washington Nationals

Predicted Contract: 2 years, $16 Million

Think we missed the boat? Skimmed over a key piece of the market? Let us know in the comments!

Joe is an actor who grew up eating, living and breathing sports. He spent many an afternoon on the soccer or baseball field in his youth (and even gave several other sports a shot) before a series of events put him on the path to pursuing a performing career. Subsequently, he's worked almost every other type of job you could imagine while trying to support that endeavor. Whenever he's not working any of those jobs, he can often be found watching, playing or discussing sports in some way. Most of that banter revolves around the Mets, Giants, Rangers or Manchester United. His short term goal is to fully convert his fiance into a rabid sports fan, not someone who leaves the room whenever he turns a game on.

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