Jurickson Profar was one of just three players on our annual Top 50 free-agent list here at MLBTR who hadn’t agreed to terms on a new contract prior to the calendar flipping to 2023. Two months later, Profar is still a free agent and, unsurprisingly, is the final unsigned member of that same top 50 list.
It’s fair to wonder just how aggressive he and agent Scott Boras were early in the winter. Profar began his offseason by declining a $7.5MM player option. While he never seemed likely to sign any kind of mega-deal, even as someone who’s more bearish on the player than many, I anticipated that he’d surpass that level of compensation. We put a relatively modest two-year, $20MM prediction on Profar’s eventual contract, but MLBTR was lower than many on the veteran switch-hitter; the New York Post’s Jon Heyman put down a four-year, $48MM estimate, and The Athletic’s Keith Law pegged him at $15-18MM annually over a term of three to four years. To be clear, the intent in highlighting those predictions is not to criticize them — we’ve had more than our share of misses in this regard — but rather to highlight that there was a wide range of outcomes that onlookers viewed as reasonable with regard to Profar.
Whatever contract Profar and Boras sought clearly hasn’t been there to this point. Brendan Kuty of The Athletic wrote this morning that Profar was at one point seeking a contract that’d pay him $10MM per season. It’s worth emphasizing that Kuty doesn’t specify whether that’s a current asking price or whether it’s on a multi-year pact. Regardless, Profar turned down a $7.5MM deal to remain in San Diego, so it’s not a huge shock to see there’s been a point where his camp was eyeing an eight-figure annual salary.
It’s hard to imagine Profar securing that $10MM AAV at this point, even on a one-year deal. Prices on recent free-agent signings have been more modest than early in the winter. Late signees like Matt Moore ($7.55MM), David Peralta ($6.5MM), Andrew Chafin ($6.25MM), Michael Fulmer ($4MM), Elvis Andrus ($3MM), Brad Hand ($2MM), Robbie Grossman ($2MM) and Will Smith ($1.5MM) have all come in south of that $10MM sum. No free agent has reached a $10MM AAV since Carlos Correa finalized his deal to return to the Twins on Jan. 11.
Perhaps Profar can yet buck that trend. He only just turned 30 and is coming off a decent 2022 season in which he batted .243/.331/.391 with 15 home runs and a career-high 36 doubles. He has above-average bat-to-ball skills, has upped his walk rate over the past couple seasons, and generally graded as an average or slightly worse defender in left field for the Padres.
That last point, in particular, is worth expanding on a bit. Many onlookers have wondered why Profar hasn’t emerged as a more viable option for the many teams in need of infield help. Profar, after all, was the game’s No. 1 overall prospect a decade ago when he was rising through the Rangers’ ranks as a shortstop. However, he’s since had a pair of shoulder surgeries, moved to the other side of the second base bag, and (during his time with the A’s) developed a case of the yips that eventually pushed him to left field.
The A’s traded Profar to San Diego after just one year, and the Padres gave him all of 197 innings at second base from 2020-22 — none of which came this past season. The Friars were shorthanded enough in the infield that they signed Robinson Cano after he was released by the Mets on the heels of a .195/.233/.268 showing. That they were content to give that version of Cano 40 innings at second base but didn’t move Profar into the infield isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of his ability to play the position.
At this point, it’s hard to consider Profar anything other than a left fielder. He’s played 156 innings of center in the big leagues (2020-21 in San Diego) and 208 innings in right field (again, 2020-21 with the Padres), but neither sample drew strong or even average ratings. Profar’s average sprint speed, per Statcast, was in the 32nd percentile of MLB players in 2022. His outfield jumps were in the 37th percentile, and his 87 mph average velocity on his throws from left field ranked 95th among 156 qualified outfielders. With limited speed, below-average jumps and below-average arm strength, center or right could be a stretch for Profar.
Profar is a switch-hitter with slightly better-than-average results at the plate, modest defensive upside in left field and perhaps an emergency infield option. He walks at a high clip and puts the ball in play far more often than the standard big league hitter. The quality of that contact isn’t particularly strong (87.5 mph exit velocity, 34.3% hard-hit rate, 4% barrel rate), but there’s something to be said for just putting the ball in play — particularly as shifts are more limited in 2023 and beyond. A slightly above-average offensive left fielder isn’t a star, but it’s a solid player. Jean Segura has a similar skill set in the infield, and he received $17MM on a two-year deal.