Potential Players of Interest: David DeJesus Alternatives
We’ve addressed a pair of right-handed outfield options already, but there’s a chance the Rays will dip into the market for a new left-handed outfielder, too. That’s because it’s doubtful the Rays value David DeJesus enough to exercise his $6.5 million club option; once that option is declined, it’s anyone’s guess whether he would return to the Rays for less money. What we do know is how market driven Andrew Friedman is, and that the winter should offer enough alternatives for the Rays to move on if it proves necessary.
The three alternatives we’ll consider here are David Murphy, Nate McLouth, and Norichika Aoki. Both Murphy and McLouth are free agents, while the Brewers have a club option on Aoki that they should exercise. The table below shows how the players stack up when it comes to hitting right-handed pitching over the past three seasons. DeJesus is the best of the bunch, yet the costs involved could make it a forgivable gap:
The Four Outfielders Versus Right-Handed Pitchers, 2011-2013
Now, onto the players.
Murphy is coming off a bad season with the Rangers; he’s tall and slender, and has a solid all-around game. At the plate, the former first-round pick uses a level swing to make a lot of contact. He uses the entire field and has a solid approach at the plate, though he might expand his zone too willingly as the count deepens and at times he becomes a front-foot hitter. Defensively, Murphy has experience at each outfield position, with left field hosting him and his average arm most of the time. He’s a platoon player through and through, as his numbers against lefties resemble Matt Joyce’s work in recent seasons.
McLouth revived his career during a season and a half in Baltimore after disappointing in Atlanta and Pittsburgh. He has an understanding of the strike zone and tends to be a good low-ball hitter. The durability concerns that plagued him in the past have been absent over the past two seasons. A former Gold Glove winner—albeit a much-maligned one—has experience across the outfield, with most of his recent exposure coming in left. Last season he re-added the stolen base to his tool box. His numbers against lefties are worse than Joyce’s over the past few years, meaning he’s a platoon player.
Finally, there’s Aoki. The Brewers are all but assured of picking up his club option (worth $1.5 million) for next season. Yet Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin acknowledged that the club has discussed moving Ryan Braun to right field in order to accommodate Khris Davis. That would impact Aoki’s standing with the club, as the Brewers already have Carlos Gomez in center field. Aoki figures to have more value to another team as a starter than to the Brewers as a fourth outfielder, and so we’ll include him here in case he does become available as the winter nears.
Aoki is a superb contact hitter who uses the entire field and has a good feel for the barrel; he hits a ton of groundballs and liners, and uses his speed to his advantage by turning tough plays and bunts into hits. The former Yakult Swallow has walked more than he’s struck out during his big-league career, and has not shown a legitimate platoon split; in fact, he hit lefties better than he hit righties in 2013. Aoki has some unorthodox hitting mechanics, yet they work for him. While he’s not a large human being, he does have a small nitro zone on the inner half in which he can unleash on the ball. His stolen-base success rate dipped last season, but it’s unclear whether he can regain his old form. Like the others, Aoki has experience in center field, too, and his fielding improved once he started playing deeper.