As the offseason creeps closer and closer, we’ll continue our position-by-position look at the upcoming free-agent class. We’ve already covered catchers, first basemen, third basemen, second basemen and shortstops. Next up, center field.

Everyday options

Starling Marte (33 years old next season): There are some other great players on this list who can play center field a bit, but Marte is your best bet if you’re looking for an everyday center fielder who can help you on both sides of the ball. Offensively, he’s been an above-average contributor for nine of the last 10 years, with 2017 being his only dip. (He missed 80 games that season after testing positive for Nandrolone, an anabolic steroid.) Over the 1,134 games of his career, he has hit 126 home runs, stolen 296 bases and has a slash line of .289/.345/.451. All that adds up to a wRC+ of 118 and 30.7 wins above replacement, according to FanGraphs. And he’s coming off his best offensive season to date, as he slashed .308/.381/.456, with 47 stolen bases, the most in the majors by a significant margin. (Whit Merrifield was second with 40.) His wRC+ on the season of 133 and his 5.4 fWAR were both career highs.

On the defensive side of things, Marte played primarily in left field for the first half of his career, as the Pirates had Andrew McCutchen in center. But since McCutchen’s departure, Marte moved over to center and has hardly moved off it since. Over the past four seasons, he has played exactly one game in left field, logging just three innings. Other than that, he’s been exclusively in center. According to Statcast, he has been worth 17 Outs Above Average in that span, which is the 15th-highest tally among center fielders leaguewide. Although Marte just turned 33 and is older than many center fielders in the league, he was still worth 4 OAA, 20th-best among center fielders this season.

Marte is reaching free agency a little bit later than most players due to the extension he signed with the Pirates way back in 2014. As a 33-year-old, that could put a cap on how long teams are willing to commit to him being a regular in center. But the Blue Jays just gave George Springer a six-year contract to cover his age-31 through age-36 seasons. Regardless, Marte is the best option available for any team that needs a center fielder now. He won’t be eligible for a qualifying offer because he was traded midseason.

Kris Bryant (30): Bryant was already written about in the third basemen post linked above. He’s not really a center fielder, only playing 29 games there over his career so far. But his versatility will be a big part of his appeal to clubs in free agency this winter. That said, he’s likely to be considered a third baseman/corner outfielder and only an emergency option in center.

Bryant will command a huge contract because of his offensive track record and strong platform season. His line this season is .268/.356/.496, wRC+ of 123, producing 3.6 fWAR.

Mark Canha (33): If you don’t regularly watch Oakland games, you might not realize how good Mark Canha has been over the past four seasons. From 2018 to 2021, he hit .249/.366/.441. That amounts to a wRC+ of 126, which ranks 39th among all qualified hitters over that time. That’s buoyed by a 12.1% walk rate, 19th among qualified hitters over those years. His 10.4 fWAR over that span is the 18th-highest tally among all outfielders.

In 2018 and 2019, he played 62 and 56 games in center, respectively. But in the shortened 2020 season, it was just nine. This year, it was 23. He’s more of a corner outfielder who can cover center in a pinch than a true center fielder. However, Statcast considers him a competent defender, crediting him with 3 OAA this season overall. And given his late-bloom career, he’s reaching free agency for the first time at a somewhat advanced age. That makes it unlikely for a team to consider him a long-term solution up the middle. But for any team that needs a corner outfielder that could slide over when needed, he’s a great option.

Chris Taylor (31): Taylor has already been discussed in the aforementioned MLBTR posts about second basemen and shortstops. While not a true everyday center fielder, he’s one of the most intriguing options on this list by virtue of his versatility. This season, he’s played 61 games in center field, and at least eight games at second base, third base, shortstop, left field and right field. In other words, he’s a proper super utility player.

2021 was his fifth-consecutive season with a wRC+ of 106 or higher. His 2021 line is .254/.344/.438, for a wRC+ 113 and 3.1 fWAR. That bat and that defensive versatility makes him a fit on just about every team in the league, meaning he should garner plenty of interest this offseason and will be one of the more fascinating markets to watch.