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Let’s explore for left handed outfield depth free agents

Colorado Rockies news and links for Wednesday, January 10, 2024

When the Los Angeles Dodgers are deferring all kinds of money into the next decade, it’s been fairly slow for many teams about MLB. The Rockies were one of three remaining teams that hadn’t spent a cent in free agency on talent for the big league roster until they signed Dakota Hudson and Jacob Stallings to one-year deals. While the moves check off a couple of boxes for the Rockies brass in 2024, MLB.com’s Thomas Harding dropped another interesting nugget of info on what the Rockies may hope to do next for the coming season.

Found in his regular newsletter, Harding writes, “The next expected piece is also likely a low-profile one, but one that can make a difference: A depth outfielder, preferably a left-handed hitter who can play all three positions.”

So, with that direction in mind, let’s try to help Bill Schmidt out and identify some targets for the team to bring in. Granted, nothing is going to be a real upgrade and we know the Rockies are going to essentially look for bargain bin reclamation projects, but we’ll do our best with options that fit the team mold.

Travis Jankowski

This player is one that I’ve seen mentioned multiple times before in the comments of various articles here at Purple Row and it seems that you, the reader, may be on to something. Jankowski has never lived up to the hype that caused the San Diego Padres to draft him 44th overall in 2012, but he has found regular work since his debut in 2015. Last season, Jankowski played in 107 games with the World Series Champion Texas Rangers.

He slashed a respectable .263/.357/.332 with 12 doubles, 30 RBI, and 19 stolen bases in 287 trips to the plate and went 2-for-7 in the World Series to drive in a pair of runs. He doesn’t strike out much and can draw walks, but his best trait is the fact that he is a quality outfielder at all three positions. He has posted 22 Defensive Runs Saved over his career in the outfield and has positive marks at each outfield spot. While his arm strength is fairly average, his range and sprint speed rank among the best in baseball. The Rockies need at least a backup center fielder for Brenton Doyle, and he fits the bill, but Jankowski could also find himself getting more playing time than many fans would hope, especially in right field.

Raimel Tapia

The Rockies love nothing more than rehashing old ideas, so why not explore a reunion with Raimel Tapia? After being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Randal Grichuk in 2022, Tapia was non-tendered and bounced between the Boston Red Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, and Tampa Bay Rays in 2023. Across 64 big league games last season, Tapia batted .236/.317/.338 with three home runs and 13 RBI. Now, Rockies fans are well aware of Tapia’s strengths and weaknesses. The good news is that Tapia is a contact machine, but the bad news is that he had a 57.3% ground ball rate last season. The good news is that Tapia does have outfield versatility, but the bad news is that he doesn’t play any of the spots particularly well. Tapia would be a cheap, familiar option even if he wouldn’t be an improvement in many aspects.

Tyler Naquin

Last offseason I wrote about the prospect of signing Tyler Naquin. Eventually, he signed a minor league deal with the Brewers and was eventually purchased by the Chicago White Sox where appeared in just five big league games. His 2023 was spent in the minor where in 68 games he batted .257/.317/.408 with nine home runs and 30 RBI. Strikeouts were a problem as he had 81 against 19 walks, but he has had a generally solid big-league career across the board.

Much like Jankowski, Naquin has received favorable marks for his outfield work. He features a career 32 DRS across the three positions, with his best work coming in right field and center field. He enters his age 33 season and could fit nicely on the bench or spend time in Triple-A.

Bradley Zimmer

Once regarded as a top prospect in the Cleveland system, Bradley Zimmer hasn’t quite panned out in the big leagues. He failed to play a game in the Majors last season, instead spending the year in Triple-A between the Dodgers and the Red Sox. His batting results weren’t great, and his defense has been pretty average at best. Early in his career, the opposite could be said, but Zimmer has slowly downgraded year after year. Still, if the Rockies want some depth for their outfield positions, Zimmer is worth a minor-league deal much like the Dodgers gave him last year.

Tony Kemp

If the Rockies want to stick with a Harold Castro-type without bringing him back, then Tony Kemp may be the player for them. Another former member of the A’s, Kemp had solid seasons in 2021 and 2022 before dropping off in 2023. In 124 games, Kemp batted just .209/.303/.304 with five home runs and 27 RBI. Amazingly thought he had more waslk (44), than strikeouts (40) to go along with 15 stolen bases. While he’s been accustomed to more of a starting role, his potential as a utility second baseman and outfielder could come in handy. Unfortunately, much like Castro, Kemp’s defensive metrics are middling at best. In theory, he can play the whole outfield, as well as second base, but his presence doesn’t help the team as a whole.

Conclusion

If the Rockies are looking for a depth outfield piece that hits left-handed, the options are fairly limited. I don’t expect the team to pursue a Joey Gallo or Eddie Rosario, so that leaves them with players just looking to prolong their careers and may even be considered Quadruple-A players. Still, if the Rockies are serious about adding this type of role player, they will need to make sure it makes sense and can add something to the roster, to just fill up space to give prospects more time.

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