Trade Targets: Center Field

Continuing our Trade Targets series, here are five center fielders who could be available at (or before) the deadline.

PLAYER: Matt Kemp
TEAM: Dodgers
POSSIBLE DESTINATION: Reds
CONTRACT STATUS: $6.95M (up to $7.1 million based on plate appearances), arbitration-eligible after this season (free agent after 2012)
PROJECTED WAR: 1.8

(Please note that Kemp’s ROS WAR is severely depressed due to his poor defensive numbers in center. He’s easily the best offensive player of the bunch, and the biggest name available, which is why he leads off this piece.)

I wish I could just copy and paste Jonah Keri’s explanation of the Los Angeles Dodgers financial situation from yesterday – since it was not only knowledgeable, but because Jonah also experienced the Montreal Expos disaster years ago.

Deciding whether or not to include Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp to these lists was a highly discussed issue considering no one really knows how the situation is going to shake out. Since Jonah published his article, more information about the Dodgers’ financial situation has been released. Long story short, it doesn’t look good. Apparently, Frank McCourt was able to meet the Dodgers’ payroll last month by asking his sponsors for an advance on their current deals. This revelation explains just how much the Dodgers are hurting for cash.

Should things go downhill – and the Dodgers have to shed payroll – Matt Kemp instantly becomes one of the most attractive players on the trade market. Kemp, 26, experienced a bit of a down season last year, but he appears to have returned to form in 2011. Due to his age and body of work, Kemp would likely command a large haul on the trade market.

Kemp’s value increased based on the fact that he’s one of the few center fielders with a playable bat in a corner outfield spot. The Reds currently have Drew Stubbs manning center field – and Kemp’s defensive numbers in center are questionable at best – making Kemp the ideal candidate to replace Jonny Gomes in left. The Reds have some valuable young talent (Yonder Alonso, Mike Leake, Todd Frazier, etc.), so there’s a chance this happens if the Dodgers make Kemp available.

PLAYER: Michael Bourn
TEAM: Astros
POSSIBLE DESTINATION: Indians
CONTRACT STATUS: $4.40M, arbitration-eligible after this season (free agent after 2012)
PROJECTED WAR: 2.3

Eric Seidman wrote up a fantastic piece on Bourn, 28,  last week, in which he explained how Bourn has been so valuable the past two seasons. Since much of Bourn’s value is tied up in his excellent defense, it’s tough to project how valuable he will be going forward. The team that acquires Bourn, however, can focus on the short term as Bourn is eligible for arbitration at the conclusion of the season. At this point in time, we have no reason to expect a sudden decline in Bourn’s defense, making him a valuable acquisition for a contender.

Due to the uncertainty surround Grady Sizemore, Bourn is an ideal fit for Cleveland. Sizemore has already spent time on the DL this season, and he’ll probably have to be rested often if the Indians hope to keep him healthy. On top of that, it’s highly unlikely Sizemore will return to his excellent defensive ways in center following such a devastating knee injury. Not only is Sizemore capable of playing a corner spot, but allowing Bourn to play center immediately increases the Indians’ team defense.

PLAYER: Marlon Byrd
TEAM: Cubs
POSSIBLE DESTINATION: Rangers
CONTRACT STATUS: $5.50M in 2011, $6.50M in 2012 (free agent after 2012)
PROJECTED WAR: 2.0

With the Cubs struggling to stay in the race for the NL Central – and the team looking to shed payroll for the offseason – Marlon Byrd could become an attractive trade piece. The Rangers could use a dependable option in center, and are familiar with Byrd. The big question is whether the Rangers would be willing to commit to Byrd for an additional season, as his contract doesn’t expire until 2013.

The Rangers don’t really have a center fielder of the future, so using Byrd as a temporary stopgap makes sense. Julio Borbon doesn’t appear to have the plate discipline needed to hold down a full-time role, and David Murphy’s glove is severely stretched in center. Adding payroll doesn’t seem to be a concern for Texas, as they signed Adrian Beltre to a large contract in the offseason.

The Rangers are familiar with Byrd – and he fills a position of need – meaning the Rangers could pounce once Byrd hits the trade block.

PLAYER: Coco Crisp
TEAM: Athletics
POSSIBLE DESTINATION: Braves
CONTRACT STATUS: $5.75M, Walk year
PROJECTED WAR: 1.9

With Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz returning to the Texas Rangers, the Athletics chance to contend for the division may have already passed. Thankfully, the A’s signed some valuable players to relatively cheap 1-year contracts this offseason. Crisp is one of those players; the A’s won’t miss him due to the short contract, and he might command a useful piece on the trade market.

The Braves are somewhat set in center, with Nate McLouth making $7M and Jordan Schafer waiting in the wings. McLouth hasn’t been effective since joining the Braves, however, and is a poor defender out in center. Schafer still has potential to be a solid center fielder, but hasn’t produced at the major league level in his brief auditions. If Schafer falters as the season progresses, and the Braves finally pull the plug on McLouth, Crisp would be a solid addition to the team.

Crisp would likely come cheap, and would upgrade Atlanta’s defense in the outfield. With various nicks and bruises keeping Jason Heyward off the field, Crisp also gives the Braves more depth in the outfield (as if they needed any more options).

PLAYER: Mike Cameron
TEAM: Red Sox
POSSIBLE DESTINATION: Marlins
CONTRACT STATUS: $7.75M, Walk year
PROJECTED WAR: 1.3

Boston is more than set in the outfield with J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford. They also have Ryan Kalish waiting in the wings, meaning they could choose to make Mike Cameron available in July.

The Marlins could use some more stability in center. Acquiring Cameron allows the Marlins to end the Chris Coghlan experiment in center and move him to third base, a position he has played before this season. With the move, the Marlins receive better production at third base, and solidify their defense (which is a common theme of this piece).

The biggest question here is money. There’s no way the Marlins will add Cameron’s contract without Boston picking up a fair amount of money. At the same time, Cameron’s contract comes off the books once the season ends, so the Marlins wouldn’t be taking on much of a monetary commitment here. If the Marlins can continue their winning ways, they may be more willing to add payroll around the deadline. It’s rare to see the Marlins add payroll around the deadline, but Cameron makes a lot of sense if the team wants to stay in contention in the NL East.



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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.


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