|Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn and B.J. Upton will make some money this offseason. (US Presswire)|
Seven of the top 10 position players available in free agency are outfielders, but much like the rest of the 2012 free agent class, the field after that is slim. Like the No. 1 player -- Josh Hamilton -- most of the outfielders on the market have question marks.
So, let's check out the top 15 outfielders available in the free agent market:
|More free agency coverage|
When healthy, Hamilton is as talented as any player who has ever played the game. But then there's the other side of that debate. Since his return to the big leagues, Hamilton has played 150 games or more just once. He played in 148 in 2012, starting strong, but struggling in the second half of the season. He hit .308/.380/.635 with 27 home runs and 75 RBI in the first half and .259/.323/.510 with 16 home runs and 53 RBI in the second half. It's also easy to forget that Hamilton will be 32 in May, and there are many who think his battles with drug abuse and alcoholism have put a toll on his body, aging him faster than other players and making him more susceptible to injury. He's also had two public relapses with alcoholism. Hamilton will make a lot of money, but the uncertainty around him makes his free agency one of the most interesting in recent memory.
Bourn is a Gold Glove caliber center fielder (even though he didn't get the award, he certainly deserved it) and has led the league in stolen bases three times. He's the top center fielder on the market (Hamilton can play center, but he's probably better suited to a corner) and the 29-year-old should find plenty of takers.
The second overall pick of the 2002 draft, Upton is one of the game's most talented players, but his production has never quite measured up to expectations. Upton made $7 million last season, and the Rays made a qualifying offer of one year, $13.3 million for next season, but Upton will likely be looking for a multi-year deal.
A switch hitter who can play in the outfield and at first base, Swisher offers teams versatility, as well as stability. Of the outfielders available, Swisher is probably the safest bet. Since coming to New York, his stats have been steady, and at just 31, he still has some productive seasons left. The Yankees made him a qualifying offer, but it appears they hope he'll decline and go elsewhere. The knock against Swisher may be his playoff performance, which was again subpar in 2012. In 11 career postseason series, Swisher has put up just a .169/.283/.305 line with four home runs in 181 plate appearances.
Pagan's postseason stats from 2012 don't look great -- .188/.230/.348 -- but he came up big again and again during the postseason. His defense was stellar, and he was a big part of the Giants' run to their second World Series title in three years. He had two home runs -- both leading off games, and in a postseason with few lead changes, those homers factored into the final outcome. Despite his struggles in the postseason, he was good in his first year in San Francisco and seems like a fit to stick with the Giants, who will need to fill their outfield through free agency.
If Victorino had been on this list a year ago, he'd have ranked higher, but 2012 was not kind to the Flyin' Hawaiian. Victorino was disposable in Philadelphia and then even worse in Los Angeles, hitting just .245/.316/.351 with the Dodgers. Victorino will turn 32 on Nov. 30, but by the end of the season he looked much older.
7. Melky Cabrera | 2012 team: Giants
2012 stats: .346/.390/.516, 11 HR, 25 2B, 10 3B, 36 BB, 63 SO
Under normal circumstances, a guy who had the highest batting average in the league and was the MVP of the All-Star Game would be a hot commodity on the free-agent market. But a 50-game suspension for violating the drug policy can put a damper on those hopes. Not only did he test positive, but to some his attempt to cover up his positive test with a fake website made it even worse. Cabrera is coming off back-to-back productive seasons, but the Giants didn't even make him eligible for the postseason when they could have put him on the roster. He'll likely be playing for his fifth team in five seasons when 2013 opens.
Many wondered if the nine-time Gold Glover's best days were behind him heading into the 2012 season, but he responded by hitting better than .300 and looked rejuvenated aside Mike Trout in the Angels' outfield. At 37, there are questions about just how much longer Hunter can be productive. There's reportedly mutual interest between the Angels and Hunter, but he does live in the Dallas area -- and the Rangers may need an outfielder.
The 32-year-old is best suited as a platoon player at this point. He hit .239/.281/.357 against right-handers and .286/.317/.550 against left-handers -- in exactly 199 plate appearances against both. Hairston has some pop and can play all three outfield spots, improving his value.
Ludwick turned down his part of a $5-million mutual option with Cincinnati to explore free agency. Ludwick struggled in parts of two seasons in San Diego and even in 38 games with the Pirates before finding Great American Ball Park to his liking. Ludwick started slow but came on in the second half for the Reds. Of Ludwick's 26 home runs, 16 came at home, but he hit .282/.351/.505 on the road and .268/.341/.555 at home.
There were few things that went right for the Red Sox in 2012, but Ross was one of them. The 31-year-old (he'll be 32 in December) thrived at Fenway Park. He hit .298/.356/.565 at home and .232/.294/.390 on the road. Despite just 24 more plate appearances at home, 25 of his 34 doubles were at Fenway Park.
Suzuki was a different player after coming to New York, where he played more like the mid-1990s Ichiro than what he'd been the last year or two in Seattle. In 67 games with the Yankees, Suzuki hit .322/.340/.454 after hitting .261/.288/.353 with the Mariners. Suzuki has expressed interest in staying with the Yankees.
Once one of the game's brightest stars, Sizemore has been sidelined by injuries the last four seasons. Still, someone will give him a shot. At just 30, there's still hope he could have a healthy season left in him. And that hope will get him several more shots.
Young, the No. 1 pick of the 2003 draft, turned 27 in September, but it looks like he's limited to DH duty at this point. Young had a good postseason, hitting .313/.365/.542 with three home runs in 52 plate appearances for the Tigers this October, but his early season arrest will hurt his earning potential on the open market. He had 74 RBI, but that number again shows why RBI numbers will be skewed by those on good teams. Young was much better (.308/.333/.500) against left-handers than right-handers (.247/.279/.370).
Gomes is another right-handed batter who is better used in a platoon, hitting .299/.413/.561 against left-handers in 2012 and .209/.324/.391 against right-handers. In his career, he's crushed lefties to a tune of .284/.382/.512. In addition to DH, Gomes played both corner outfield spots.