Trade Candidates: Chris and Chris and Chris

Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE

Some teams will look towards free agency to upgrade in the outfield, but a few trade possibilities could be better deals.

When scouring this offseason's market for free agents, you might notice that while positions like first base and third base lack depth, teams have a plethora of outfielders from which to choose. From the top tier of Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury, to others like Curtis Granderson, Carlos Beltran, and Nelson Cruz, and even lesser players like Chris Young and Rajai Davis, solid bargains and talented players abound. Was an organization even more daring, said team could look to pluck Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins. Teams will continue to weigh the costs and benefits associated with acquiring these players and many others, but I want to take a look at three lesser known, but secretly valuable outfielders that teams should look to acquire heading into 2014.

Chris #1:

Padres outfielder Chris Denorfia qualifies as a fascinating case study. During his age-32 season, Denorfia put up some interesting numbers. Let's begin with simple valuations of his recent and overall play. Before joining the Padres in 2009, Denorfia had been given little chance to play, and when inserted into the lineup, produced minimally. Yet in 2010, when given 300+ plate appearances per season, Denorfia began to become a valuable outfielder, even if only off the bench.

fWAR

rWAR

WARP

2010

1.5

2

2.3

2011

1.2

1

0.8

2012

1.6

2.2

1.9

2013

3.9

4.3

2.8

Clearly, 2013 marks a breakout year for Denorfia. But when taking a closer look at his 2010-2012, we see that his value stats don't tell the whole story. In each season with San Diego, Denorfia has either hit well or fielded well, and not until 2013 had he put the two together, at least according to the common metrics.

TAv

FRAA

wRC+

UZR/150

2010

0.287

2

113

2.3

2011

0.260

2.4

107

4.4

2012

0.291

-4.1

123

-11.7

2013

0.272

2.8

108

21.8

Using his TAv and wRC+, we see that from a hitting standpoint, Denorfia comes out as above average, but also that his production does fluctuate a bit from season to season. Defensive metrics should be taken in larger sample sizes, especially given the lesser playing time Denorfia saw in 2010 and 2011, and thus taking some sort of average or sum of these figures will give us a better sense of Chris Denorfia the defensive outfielder. Denorfia's overall FRAA in San Diego comes out to 3.1 and his UZR/150 to 16.8, both above-average figures, especially when you consider he plays all three outfield positions, and does so in spacious PETCO Park about half the time.

At 33 years old, we can't expect Denorfia to increase his value too much either at the plate or in the field, but with one year left prior to reaching free agency, trading for Denorfia might give a team in need of a reliable and flexible outfielder a good bargain for at least one full season. Moreover, once acquiring Denorfia, signing him to an extension through 2015 might prove quite useful going forward.

The Padres recently re-signed Will Venable, and have Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin under contract as well, giving them the ability to move Denorfia and possibly acquire something of value for him prior to his move to free agency. Teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, or the Mariners might benefit from a player like Denorfia. The Yankees want to keep costs low, but with two older outfielders in Alfonso Soriano and Ichiro on the books, a multi-faceted player like Denorfia could add depth and not add onto the payroll. The Red Sox are most likely set to lose Jacoby Ellsbury, and while Jackie Bradley Jr. looms to take over in center field, the Sox could gain depth and a fallback option by making a move for Denorfia. The Mariners seem prime to sign a bigger name outfielder in free agency, but making a move for Denorfia would represent an improvement on Michael Saunders and a good replacement for the departing Franklin Gutierrez should the M's not resign him.

Chris #2:

The Reds are set to lose and gain an outfielder. Shin-Soo Choo -- acquired for Didi Gregorius last season -- provided the Reds with great value in 2013, but Cincinnati will not be re-signing the Korean outfielder. The team did bring up young speedster Billy Hamilton at the end of 2013, and it seems likely they will provide him a chance to play everyday in 2014. With Jay Bruce in right field and Ryan Ludwick set to play left, teams should look into trades for Chris Heisey.

Heisey has played four seasons in the majors, all as a backup, never having posted 400 or more plate appearances in one season. Nonetheless, he has shown his worth and surprising consistency.

fWAR

rWAR

WARP

2010

1.4

1.1

1.1

2011

1.5

1.8

1.4

2012

1.2

-0.2

0.6

2013

1.2

0.6

0.2

Heisey combines a solid overall package of hitting, base running, and defense, performing those last two at an above-average level from year to year. Defensively, Heisey shows an ability to play well on balls hit in front of him, at him, and even over his head with a +/- of 5, 4 and 1, respectively. While he won't be stealing bases on the regular, Heisey's UBR (7.6 over his career) shows a player that runs the bases well.

His overall offensive game has seen some peaks and valleys, meaning that nothing is certain. With a career wRC+ of 99 entering his age-29 season, Heisey should be considered at least league-average at the plate. More importantly, his splits show a hitter that mashes left-handed hitters, while not performing as well against righties. With his platoon splits, Heisey could profile as a starter against left-handers and a mid-game replacement who can remain in the game for multiple innings, as he doesn't constitute a deficient defender.

Heisey won't enter free agency until 2017, meaning that a team looking to acquire him will get him for his arbitration years, which coincide with his prime. While the Reds would also value keeping Heisey, looking to acquire him could bring back substantial returns, especially if he improves with more playing time. The Orioles, Blue Jays, and A's could all reap the benefits of acquiring a controllable player like Heisey.

Chris #3:

Finally we arrive at Chris Carter. The Astros left fielder / first baseman / DH was the topic of may conversations in 2013 -- mostly about his incredible strikeout rate. Carter led the major leagues in K% at 36.2%. That isn't a typo, but fortunately for potential suitors, Carter did post a respectable 12.0% walk percentage, one year after posting a 15.0% BB%. Unlike Denorfia or Heisey, no one can make the argument that Carter is a good or even average defensive outfielder or first baseman. Nonetheless, Carter provides power -- immense power -- that the other two Chrises cannot come close to matching.

His .227 ISO in 2013 bested the likes of Domonic Brown, Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Upton, and Matt Holliday, and his 29 home runs were second amongst qualified left fielders behind only Alfonso Soriano. Carter, at age 27, will be in the beginning of his prime years, and with teams regularly disregarding high strikeout rates in return for power output and on base skills, Carter's offensive profile no longer scares away as many organizations as it might have in the past. Another plus from Carter is his platoon splits: 112 wRC+ vs. RHP and 117 vs. LHP. They show a propensity to produce offensively no matter what pitcher opposing managers choose to send to the hill.

Finally, Carter won't become a free agent until the 2018 season, by which time he will be 31 years old. A team looking to acquire Carter will get his best years out of him at a decent price. With the Astros looking to give players in the minor league system a chance to play over the next few years, Carter may not find as much playing time, even with his ability to play first base and designated hitter. With that in mind, a team like the Orioles or Tigers could be a good fit for Carter.

With outfielders galore on the free agent market, it's a good bet that none of these three players will have new employers come 2014. But all three warrant legitimate consideration from teams looking for outfield help. Whether it is the all-around veteran Denorfia, the cheap, lefty-mashing Chris Heisey, or the power-hitting strikeout king Chris Carter, all three Chrises have something to offer teams in 2014 and beyond.

. . .

All statistics courtesy of Fangraphs, Baseball Prospectus, and Baseball-Reference.

Ben Horrow is a writer at Beyond The Box Score and The Good Phight. You can follow him on Twitter at @Summerpastime.

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