With the League Championship Series having kicked off tonight, we’re moving ever closer to the offseason. With free agency approaching, MLBTR has taken a position-by-position look at the options who’ll be available on the open market.
Today, we turn our attention to the corner outfield. Essentially all of the center field-capable players on the market could presumably cover the corners if necessary. (Starling Marte, for instance, has already shown himself to be more than capable of handling left field). Still, we’ve already covered the center fielders in-depth, so we’ll look only at players who have recently spent a significant amount of time in the corner outfield for purposes of this post.
Kris Bryant (30 next April): Bryant has shown enough athleticism to handle both corner infield positions and cover anywhere on the outfield, although he’s better suited in a corner than in center field. Advanced defensive metrics suggest he struggled to adapt to the spacious right field at Oracle Park after a midseason trade from the Cubs to the Giants, but he’s generally rated as a fine outfielder over the course of his career.
Wherever he were to play, teams will be in on Bryant this winter for his bat. He broke into the majors with five consecutive elite hitting seasons, including a 2016 campaign in which he won the NL MVP award. Bryant struggled in last year’s shortened season, but he bounced most of the way back in 2021. Over 586 plate appearances, the 29-year-old hit .265/.353/.481 with 25 homers, drawing walks and hitting for power at above-average rates. The midseason trade renders him ineligible for a qualifying offer.
Kyle Schwarber (29): Bryant’s former Cub teammate, Schwarber’s time in Chicago ended a year early when he was non-tendered last winter after a down 2020. The former top five pick rebounded with a career-best showing at the plate in 2021, combining for a .266/.374/.554 line between the Nationals and Red Sox. Schwarber popped 32 homers in just 471 plate appearances (he missed more than a month midseason because of a hamstring strain), backed up by batted ball metrics that are among the most impressive in the sport.
Schwarber’s not a strong defender. He’s played almost exclusively in left field over the past few seasons, picking up a bit of time at first base down the stretch in Boston. Defensive metrics have pegged his range as well below-average in left — although he’s offset some of that with a strong arm. And Schwarber does strike out a fair amount, but his combination of power and patience makes him one of the more impactful bats available this winter. Like Bryant, he’s ineligible for a QO by virtue of a midseason trade.
Michael Conforto (29): Conforto entered the season as one of the top players in this winter’s class. With a typical season, he’d have had a very strong case to land a nine figure deal. Instead, Conforto posted his worst numbers since 2016, hitting .232/.344/.384 over 479 trips to the plate. That’s a far cry from his .261/.365/.478 line between 2018-20.
Conforto’s down year comes in spite of a career-low strikeout rate, a typically strong walk percentage, and batted ball metrics not too dissimilar from prior seasons. That disconnect between his seemingly still-strong process but his far less impressive results makes Conforto one of the tougher free agents to pin down this winter. The Mets are reportedly planning to offer him a QO.
Chris Taylor (31): Taylor has moved all over the diamond for the Dodgers, spending the bulk of this season in center field and at second base but also appearing at both corner outfield spots and third base.
Taylor has been a bit unheralded on a Dodgers’ roster loaded with superstars (at least until his heroics in last week’s Wild Card game), but he’s been a consistently above-average hitter with passable defensive marks virtually everywhere he plays. He strikes out a fair amount, but he also hits for power, walks and consistently runs high batting averages on balls in play. His bat cooled off in the second half after a scorching start to the season, but Taylor’s track record and versatility make him a likely qualifying offer recipient and candidate to land a strong three or four-year contract. MLBTR’s Darragh McDonald recently broke down Taylor’s impending free agency at greater length.