3 outfielders the Cleveland Guardians could still target in free agency
There aren’t many free-agent outfield options left for the Cleveland Guardians, but here are three names they could still target before the season starts.
Baseball’s hot stove has been on fire since the lockout ended, though someone might want to remind the Cleveland Guardians of that. While numerous free agents continue to go off the board – some signing pretty reasonable deals with other teams – one wonders just what the Guardians’ plan might be with the season approaching fast.
But even as the Guardians stand pat with their criminally low payroll, there are still a few names out there that make sense, primarily in the outfield. If Cleveland was looking to upgrade the infield in any way through free agency… well, that time has probably passed.
That being said, here are three players that are still viable options for a Guardians outfield still in desperate need of an upgrade.
Remaining Free Agent Outfield Options for the Cleveland Guardians
With the amount of suitors building for Conforto, who rejected a one-year, $18.4 million qualifying offer from the Mets, it doesn’t seem likely the Guardians will land him. However, the 29-year-old would be a perfect fit in left or right field, immediately slotting in as the best corner outfielder the team has from an offensive standpoint.
Conforto had a bit of a down year in 2021, but still maintained a .344 on-base percentage and 106 wRC+ to go along with 14 home runs in 406 at-bats. He excels at getting on base, evidenced by his career .356 OBP, along with providing dependable pop. Between 2018 and 2019, when Conforto was getting a full season’s worth of at-bats, he averaged a slash line of .250/.356/.471 and a 125 OPS+, with 61 home runs, 174 RBIs and 54 doubles across 1,092 at-bats.
Pham, 34, had a disappointing two seasons with the Padres, hitting just .226/.335/.370 with 18 home runs, 61 RBIs, 26 doubles and a 91 wRC+ across 584 at-bats. Pham has also been hit with a string of injuries and horrible luck, including a broken hand, testing positive for COVID-19, and suffering a gruesome back injury after being stabbed outside of a strip club.
All that being said, a fresh start back in the American League could do Pham a world of good. He was last seen in the AL with the Rays in 2018 and 2019, hitting a robust .287/.385/.485 with 28 home runs, 90 RBIs, and a 135 OPS+ in 710 at-bats. He doesn’t come without his risks given his recent injury history, but Pham still has an elite eye at the plate and could be the ideal veteran presence in this increasingly young Guardians lineup. Oh, and he’s also reportedly open to playing first base.
Goodwin, 31, has put up decent numbers in his career as an outfield utility guy. In his best season – 2019 with the Angels – he hit .262/.326/.470 with 17 home runs, 29 doubles, and a 106 wRC+ in 413 at-bats. Goodwin hasn’t come close to that kind of production since, hopping around to the Reds and White Sox the past two years.
The Guardians are very likely more inclined to give a prospect like Steven Kwan or Oscar Gonzalez a shot rather than having Goodwin (or Dexter Fowler, Brett Gardner, etc.) take up a roster spot, especially when guys like Bradley Zimmer and Oscar Mercado can also easily play multiple outfield positions. But this just goes to show how thin the free-agent pool has gotten.