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A look at the free agent outfielders the Indians will be looking at this winter

Looking at the free agent outfielders who will likely be better than David Murphy next season.

Mike Morse
Mike Morse
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

David Murphy is under contract through the end of the 2015 season (with a $7M 2016 option), and wasn't awful last season, so the Indians don't have to make an upgrade in right field. Unlike previous years, there aren't any glaring holes in the roster, so any improvements the Indians will be making should be in the form of acquiring a better player than in RF (or 3B, etc) and trading the incumbent at that position for another marginal upgrade somewhere else.

Now if the Indians had $20-30M to play with, signing one of the top free agents would be the way to go. Signing Melky Cabrera (for example) then trading David Murphy (or keeping Murphy as a backup and dumping Ryan Raburn) would make a ton of sense from a pure roster standpoint. Cabrera would give the Indians a needed power threat in the middle of the lineup, and would help correct the team's recent weakness against left-handed pitching.  But unfortunately the Indians can't make that "easy" decision. But at the same time, any outfielder that they can afford to sign doesn't necessarily give them as value as David Murphy could.

Here are my rankings of the best outfielders on the market:

  • 1. OF Yasmani Tomas (24) (signed with Arizona)
  • 2. RF/LF Nelson Cruz (34)
  • 3. RF/LF Melky Cabrera (30)
  • 4. CF Colby Rasmus (28)
  • 5. RF/LF Nick Markakis (31)
  • 6. RF/LF Mike Morse (33)
  • 7. RF/LF Nori Aoki (33)
  • 8. RF/LF Alex Rios (34)
  • 9. RF/LF Torii Hunter (39)

Only 9 free agent outfielders I'd qualify as being better than David Murphy, with one of them being a center fielder (Rasmus), and one of them (Tomas) apparently off the board. Rasmus doesn't make a lot of sense unless the Indians have some means of dealing Michael Bourn, and Bourn has been good enough to make upgrading center field a very low priority. Nelson Cruz and Melky Cabrera are both likely way out of the Indians' price range.

The leaves the group of outfielders from numbers 5-9. None of the outfielders in this group were given a Qualifying Offer, so the Indians would not have to give up their 2015 first round were they to sign one of them.

Nick Markakis: Left-handed hitter, but has done surprisingly well (.288/.344/.398) against left-handed pitching in his career. Won his second Gold Glove earlier this month, but advanced metrics don't like him. He's the youngest of this group,

Mike Morse: Right-handed hitter coming off a fantastic season (.279/.336/.475) with the Giants. In the lineup he'd be a nice fit, though he'd be a defensive liability in right field.

Nori Aoki: Like Markakis, Aoki is a left-handed hitter who doesn't have problems hitting left-handed pitchers. Not a power threat, but has a very good eye at the plate. He'd be a natural fit as the club's leadoff hitter. He'd also be a defensive upgrade.

Alex Rios: Where'd the power go? Last year Rios only hit 4 home runs while playing half his games in the Launchpad in Arlington, though he was a still a productive hitter (.280/.311/.398). I'm guessing he's going to be pretty affordable, to the point where the Indians could keep both Murphy and Rios on the roster.

Torii Hunter: Seems to be thinking about a return to Minnesota, but would have a much better shot at winning in 2015 with the Indians. Still a surprisingly well-rounded player at 39 years old.

If you're looking for the best fit in the lineup, I'd say Morse would be the guy, but again, he's a liability in the field and will probably command a significant multi-year contract. Rios would probably be the best value, but that power outage is very concerning. Aoki intrigues me with his skill set, but I'm pretty sure he's not the type of bat that the Indians are looking for. I think the Indians either buy low (Rios) or stand pat here, hoping that David Murphy or the outfield prospects in the system (Moncrief, Walters, Ramsey, etc) are good enough.