Astros: Five potential free agent outfielders to target

Jackie Bradley Jr. (19) after hitting an 2 RBI home run during the sixth inning against the Houston Astros in game four of the 2018 ALCS playoff baseball series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Jackie Bradley Jr. (19) after hitting an 2 RBI home run during the sixth inning against the Houston Astros in game four of the 2018 ALCS playoff baseball series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports /

Here are five free agent outfielders the Houston Astros could potentially target.

It’s no secret that the Houston Astros biggest need this offseason is in the outfield. With George Springer, Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick all reaching free agency, it’s likely that new GM James Click will need to find two starting outfielders before Spring Training begins. Without a great deal of depth in the farm system, he may have to turn to the free agent market.

Kyle Tucker will be back to lock down one of the corner outfield spots. Yordan Alvarez should be back from knee surgery as well, but the Astros would likely prefer to keep him at DH, or at least limit his time in the outfield. Thus they’ll need a full-time center fielder and a corner outfielder.

Myles Straw, while possessing excellent speed and a strong glove, simply hasn’t produced enough at the plate to justify being more than a fourth outfielder. There are no prospects in the system who are ready to take over, and the Astros simply cannot afford to retain both Springer and Brantley. It’s possible, though, that either of them could be re-signed, although we’re not optimistic about Springer.

With that in mind, here are five free agent outfielders the Astros could pursue to fill one of these vacant outfield spots.

Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley, who turns 31 in April, is coming off one of his best seasons. He hit .283/.364/.450 in 57 games with the Red Sox, but he owns just a career .239/.321/.412 line in parts of eight seasons in Boston. He does offer some pop, though, as he has two seasons with 20 or more home runs in his career, and his lefthanded bat would help balance the Astros lineup.

A center fielder, Bradley won a Gold Glove in 2018 and totaled five defensive runs saved while not making an error in 2020. His price tag may be the highest of this group, and the Astros could probably only afford him if they don’t retain Springer. But if they need a new center fielder, Bradley is likely the best option on the market.

Joc Pederson

Pederson is the youngest on this list, only turning 29 next April. He’s also coming off a poor season, hitting only .190/.285/.397 in 43 games. Thus it’s difficult to gauge what kind of market he’ll have or what kind of contract he’ll get. But, in spite of the fact that he’s played for the Dodgers, you can’t deny his potential.

Pederson hit 36 homers in 2019 and has four seasons with 25 or more, and let’s not forget that he hit three bombs against the Astros in the 2017 World Series. He’s more suited to the corner outfield these days and is average to slightly above average there defensively, but his powerful lefthanded swing would go well in the Houston lineup.

Kevin Pillar

Pillar will turn 32 in January and had to settle for a cheap one-year deal last offseason, but he made good on it by hitting a combined .288/.336/.462 between the Red Sox and Rockies. He has a fair amount of pop in his bat, as 15-20 homers with 30-40 doubles would be a reasonable expectation. He can also steal a base here and there.

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Defensively he’s primarily played center field and has a number of highlight reel catches to his name, although the metrics have been less impressed by his work over the past couple of seasons. Still, he should be able to adequately hold down either center field or a corner spot for a couple of years, and he would likely come much cheaper than Bradley or Pederson.

Adam Eaton

Eaton will turn 32 in December, and after a poor 2020 season at the plate with a career-low .669 OPS, the Nationals declined his $10.5 million option for 2021. In his three seasons with Washington prior to 2020, he only had one injury-free year (2019), playing in only 118 games combined in 2017 and 2018. When healthy, he’s been a solid hitter, posting healthy batting averages with a little bit of power.

He started out as a center fielder but has played right field in recent years, and the metrics haven’t looked too positively on his work there. The Astros might have to stick him in left field and hope he stays healthy, but Eaton could be a bargain in the making if he can stay on the field and see an offensive rebound.

Marcell Ozuna

This one is a bit of a long shot and would probably only happen if both Springer and Brantley were to sign elsewhere. Ozuna had a fantastic season at the plate, hitting .338/.431/.636 and led the NL in home runs and RBIs. He turns 30 next month and is likely set up to get a hefty multi-year deal, so he should have several suitors.

The Astros do have the money for one big splash, so if they can’t bring back either of their incumbent outfielders, they could potentially pivot to Ozuna. He’s limited to left field, and might even have to split DH duties with Alvarez, but he’s by far the most potent outfield bat on the free agent market aside from Springer and Brantley.