Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the free-agent class is the outfielders, because the future of each player is somewhat dependent on the others. While Jacoby Ellsbury seems to be the top outfielder available, signing any of them is liable to force teams to make successive moves.
Beyond waiting to see which team will pony up the dollars for Ellsbury, there are a number of intriguing subplots developing.
For starters, two rebuilding clubs, the Seattle Mariners and New York Mets, are playing the market but quickly discovering they will have to overpay a big-name outfielder, just as the Washington Nationals had to do with Jayson Werth in 2011.
The other complicating factor with this is that agent Scott Boras is holding the cards on the top two free-agent outfielders in Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo, and he doesn’t seem to be in a hurry. That could delay Carlos Beltran and Curtis Granderson from finding homes because they might wait to see where Ellsbury and Choo sign.
Further, the Dodgers have also thrown a wrench into the outfield market because they’ve told teams they’ll at least listen to offers on Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford. The Dodgers would love to get out from under some of the financial exposure of their outfielders. As Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti told me, he wants his outfield to get younger, and with top prospect Joc Pederson possibly ready for the majors in August, the Dodgers can afford to trade one outfielder. Most clubs are trying to pry away Kemp, but he’s really the only legitimate center fielder the Dodgers have, so they’re more likely to deal Ethier.
So where are all these guys going? I’ve been talking with a lot of executives and agents over the past week, and based on those conversations, here is my best estimate of where these free-agent outfielders will land: