Rumors indicate the Astros have been searching the free agent market for a third outfielder. Is Kyle Tucker ready or should they go the free agency route?
Names like Andrew McCutchen, A.J. Pollock and Michael Brantley have been linked to the Astros in their hunt to fill out their trio of outfielders. The question of whether Kyle Tucker is ready for the big leagues or possibly involved in a trade still looms. The free agent market may be the avenue Houston takes to find the compliment to George Springer and Josh Reddick.
Tucker, 21, was drafted by the Astros in the first round of the 2015 draft. In 2018 he was promoted to their AAA affiliate and showed great promise, batting .332 and belting 24 HRs in 100 games. But when he was called up to Houston he was underwhelming in his 28 appearances, hitting just .141 with no homers to show. Although a small picture to look at, it makes one wonder if more time in the minors may be of benefit.
With the acquisition of Aledmys Diaz, it seems unlikely Marwin Gonzalez will be returning to Houston for the 2019 season. Gonzales appeared in 73 games last season in the outfield and his absence will be noticed. If Tucker isn’t ready for big league pitching or used as trade bait and Gonzalez is truly gone, free agency may be the Astros most viable option. Let’s take a look at the three outfielders named in the latest rumors.
Andrew McCutchen, 32, has spent ten years in the majors, mostly with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The five-time All-Star played with San Francisco in 2018, finishing out the season with the Yankees. He has a career batting average of .287, but that seems to be waning of late, hitting .279 in 2017 and .255 last year. He is still a power threat, consistently averaging 24 HRs a season over the last five years. McCutchen primarily plays the CF position and has a Fld% of .989, slightly above the league average.
Michael Brantley, 31, has also been in the major leagues for ten years, spending his entire career with the Cleveland Indians. He has a lifetime slash line of .295/.351/.430. Brantley had somewhat of a resurgence last season, batting .309 and adding 17 HRs. He has been selected as an All-Star the last two seasons, along with his 2014 appearance. With a Fld% of .994, he is an above average fielder, playing mostly in LF with quite a bit of playing time in center.
A. J. Pollock, 30, has spent his seven years in the big leagues with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He is hitting for an average of .281 over his career. His best season was in 2015 when he had a slash line of .315/.367/.498 and won a Gold Glove Award and played in the All-Star game. Like Brantley, he has a career Fld% of .994, which has them both tied for third among active outfielders. He has extensively been used in the center field position.
Pollock received the smaller salary of the three in 2018 earning him $7.75 million, while Brantley and McCutchen garnered $11.5 million and $14.75 million respectively. The Astros would have to cede their #2 draft pick in 2019 and pay $500K in international pool money if Pollock was signed, so he may be the costliest of the group in the long run.
McCutchen is the healthiest and most consistent, averaging over 150 games per season. But you may have to sacrifice a little in batting average and fielding for power. Brantley and Pollock are the better defensive players of the three but have had their share of injuries.
So if the Astros should decide to utilize free agency choosing their next outfielder, in lieu of giving Tucker the opportunity, it basically comes down to the old adage, “pick your poison”. Which do you choose? Power over average? Consistency over fielding? The lesser over-all cost of the three? Who would you pick to join Springer and Reddick in the outfield?