Assessing the deep CF market

Plenty of center fielders to go around, but where do they make most sense?

Updated: November 14, 2012, 12:08 PM ET
By Dan Szymborski | Baseball Think Factory
Shane VictorinoHarry How/Getty ImagesShane Victorino was awful in 2012, but projects to be a real bargain in 2013.

For baseball's general managers, the toughest part of the baseball season is only a few weeks away. Convening in Nashville, Tenn., from Dec. 3-6, baseball executives will gather to take part in the biggest shopping days of the year at baseball's winter meetings.

The free-agent market is now 35 years of age, and today's free-agent market generally features fewer of baseball's elite than it did 20 years ago as teams are more willing and eager to lock up their best talent before those players hit the market. After all, not only do players have less leverage before hitting free agency, but why risk someone giving Matt Cain or Cole Hamels crazier money than you intend to?

Different free-agent markets are strong and weak in different things and this year, if you're looking to sign an upgrade at second base, you have very few options. If you're looking for a big-name shortstop, you'd have better luck waiting for divine intervention. But if you crave a center fielder, this may be your lucky year.

According to Keith Law's free-agent rankings, the top three hitters available in free agency, and four of the top 10, have generally played center field in recent years. Quality center fielders don't grow on trees, so there's no shortage of possible destinations for this group. And if you don't have $50 million or $100 million in your bank account to sign your very own center fielder -- I checked this morning and I appear to be a smidgen short of the required funds -- speculation is the next best thing. For each of the top free-agent center fielders, I've made my guess for which destinations would be the best fit. I've also tried to focus on at least remotely plausible scenarios, so no Houston Astros-sign-everybody-in-the-world scenarios. Since it's no fun having a bunch of complex algorithms and not using them, I've also included the 2013 ZiPS projection for each player in the park of his proposed 2013 employer.

Josh Hamilton to the Detroit Tigers