Ranking The Top 5 Free Agent Outfielders For The Stretch Run

As we draw closer to the postseason, teams are looking to make any move they can to improve their roster the slightest bit. As basement dwellers cast off their veterans to give playing time to their prospects, competing teams search free agency for any value they can find. Jackie Bradley Jr., with his gold glove defense and occasional power, was an excellent pickup for the Blue Jays, but here are some remaining free agents who could help other teams as the end of the season approaches:

5. Justin Upton
The 2005 first overall pick has gone from a star to a solid starter to a replacement-level bench bat in his mid-30’s. Upton still puts up big exit velocities, but he strikes out a bunch and his high-launch angle approach leads to a lot of weak popups. He was released after just 17 games by the outfielder-rich Mariners, but a contending team with a short bench could take him on to try to squeeze the last bits of magic out of that bat, especially against lefty pitchers who he’s always performed well against. He ranks last because he’s a bat-only player at this point in his career, and most fourth outfielders need to provide some defensive value to be worthwhile.

4. Dee-Strange Gordon
Eight years into his major league career, Gordon’s profile is the same as always: great contact skills, no power or plate discipline, and athletic enough to be serviceable at most positions on the field and on the basepaths. He won’t change a team’s fortunes, but he might be better than your team’s current backup outfielder, and his versatility could provide a lot of value as teams struggle to fill holes left by injury.

3. Billy Hamilton
The quintessential fourth outfielder, Hamilton has carved out an eight year career for himself despite never hitting a lick because of his game-breaking speed. In the ghost-runner era, pinch runners are more valuable than ever. Being able to put Hamilton on second at the start of extra innings could get a team an extra win or two down the stretch, and in a playoff race, those extra wins are everything. Hamilton would be best served on a high-offense team that could survive burning a bench spot on his wheels, with a manager capable of employing him in a way that would guarantee him the fewest at-bats possible.

2. Lorenzo Cain
Age comes for everyone, eventually. The 36-year-old former MVP was released by the Brewers this year after putting up a dismal .179 batting average and -0.6 Wins Above Replacement in 43 games. It’s possible that Cain is done as a professional ballplayer entirely, let alone a good one. On the other hand, just last year he put up a solid .719 OPS to go with good defense in center and right, and now that he’s had a chance to rest his legs, he could look more like his old self in limited playing time for a new team. The ideal situation for Cain would be on a real contender looking to keep its starters healthy and rested for the playoffs, where he could swap in at any outfield position to give players a day off. He would also provide some intangible benefits; as a beloved veteran, he would energize the fanbase of whichever team he joined, and with his championship experience he could be a positive locker room presence for younger players.


1. Jake Marisnick
Like the other players on this list, Marisnick has been a below average hitter this year, but he hasn’t been nearly as bad as the other four. He has also put up markedly better defensive numbers than them all, and at all three outfield positions to boot. He’s the youngest of the group at 31 years old, has playoff experience and a strong track record of production in a bench role over four years as a utilityman for the Astros. In a sense, he combines the best traits of the four players above him: the experience and offensive potential of Cain and Upton, along with the athleticism and versatility of Gordon and Hamilton. He was released by the Pirates while suffering from a minor toe injury, but once he’s healthy he will be in high demand for teams in need of quality depth. 

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