Jurickson Profar is the top unsigned position player, with the switch-hitter still lingering on the open market after opting out of his deal with the Padres. Even with Spring Training a few weeks out, there isn’t much clarity on his likely landing spot.
The Rangers, Marlins, Red Sox, Astros, Rockies and Yankees have all been loosely tied to him at points this offseason. Houston and Boston have made other significant left field acquisitions (Michael Brantley and Masataka Yoshida, respectively). Colorado’s reported interest was fairly quickly downplayed, while Miami has since moved Jazz Chisholm Jr. into center field — thereby pushing players like Bryan De La Cruz and Jesús Sánchez into the left field conversation.
While the Yankees still have a questionable left field mix, it doesn’t appear they’re planning to further push payroll. Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported last week the club does not want to exceed the fourth and final luxury-tax barrier, set at $293MM for the 2023 season. That’d leave them with essentially no breathing room unless they shed some money in a trade. Even in that instance, pivoting back to Profar might not be in the cards. Brendan Kuty of the Athletic wrote this morning the team has been deterred by Profar’s asking price. General manager Brian Cashman indicated on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM over the weekend that Aaron Hicks was likely to get the first crack in left field (h/t to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com).
Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic, meanwhile, reported yesterday the Orioles have been involved in the Profar market. The asking price might prove too rich for Baltimore’s taste as well, as Rosenthal adds the front office isn’t particularly bullish on their chances of getting a deal done.
Profar would be a curious fit for the Orioles even before considering the financial implications. While he began his career as a middle infielder, he rated poorly as a defender. That was largely due to throwing accuracy issues, which peaked in 2019 when he committed 11 throwing errors from second base as a member of the Athletics. Since that year, he’s primarily been limited to corner outfield work. Profar picked up sporadic action on the right side of the infield in 2020-21 and didn’t play anywhere other than left field last year.
It’s likely most clubs wouldn’t see him as more than an emergency option anywhere outside the corner outfield. Baltimore doesn’t have a path to at-bats in either left or right field at the moment. Austin Hays and Anthony Santander make for a capable tandem. Santander has more power than Profar does. Hays and Profar have produced at similar levels the last couple of seasons, so it’s not likely that Baltimore views the free agent as a significant upgrade.
That said, a run at Profar could have freed the O’s up to deal one of their in-house outfielders. General manager Mike Elias noted last week the team is still looking for ways to bolster the rotation, and Rosenthal writes they’re considering trade possibilities for starting pitching. Hays or Santander could appeal to a club that’s willing to market a back-end starter in search of an immediate outfield upgrade — speculatively speaking, the Brewers and Rangers could fit the mold — but a trade would leave the O’s to lean heavily on the rookie Kyle Stowers unless they subsequently add experienced outfield help.
While it’s difficult to find a perfect landing spot for Profar, he’s a decent everyday left fielder. A switch-hitter with quality contact skills and a patient approach, he’s hit at an above-average level in two of the past three years. Profar was a lineup staple last season in San Diego, appearing in 152 games and tallying 658 plate appearances. He hit .243/.331/.391 with 15 home runs and 36 doubles. That production checked in 10 percentage points above league average, by measure of wRC+, once one accounts for the league-wide drop in power and the pitcher-friendly nature of Petco Park.
Profar is still just 30 years old and has a case for a multi-year deal on the heels of that solid season. That was surely his expectation when he forewent the final $6.5MM on his contract with the Friars at the beginning of the offseason. He should still be able to top that, although his long stay on the open market would seem to suggest he hasn’t found the level of interest his camp was anticipating. Michael Conforto and Trey Mancini each secured opt-out clauses on two-year guarantees this offseason, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Profar do the same once he finally agrees to terms. Topping the $14MM guaranteed to Mancini — who’s a year older and coming off a lesser offensive showing — should be attainable.
The Rangers, where Profar began his career after being rated as a top prospect, still need to upgrade in left field via free agency or trade. The Padres could circle back given the front office’s long-standing affinity for the outfielder, although they might be nearing their spending limit. That’s also true of the Braves and Dodgers, two contenders who have room for left field upgrades on paper. A retooling club like the Royals or Tigers could eye Profar as a deadline trade candidate. That’d likely only be appealing if he doesn’t secure an opt-out possibility, which would otherwise significantly reduce his trade appeal. If Profar lingers on the market much longer, it’s possible that inevitable injuries around the league early in spring training could create a new opportunity or two, although his preference is surely to be signed by the time camps begin to open.