Hunter's signing opened up more possibilities for center fielders
For all the bellyaching about Major League Baseball's weak free-agent crop, no one's ever griped about the center-field menu. Even after Vernon Wells and Ichiro Suzuki signed long-term deals earlier this year, the position was relatively deep and seemingly easy to handicap.
Aaron RowandThe Phillies, for the moment, plan to focus on pitching and third base and go with an outfield of Pat Burrell in left field, Shane Victorino in center and a combination of Jayson Werth and Greg Dobbs in right field. They'd love to upgrade in right field, but Geoff Jenkins is too pricey for their tastes. And while they'd like to keep Rowand, even a four-year deal for $10 million-plus annually seems beyond their comfort zone.
Mike CameronThe Padres talked contract with Cameron last spring, and the gap didn't seem unbridgeable. A source said the team was offering three years and $30 million, while Cameron was looking for three years at $36 million. When Cameron was slapped with a 25-game amphetamine suspension to begin the 2008 season, it appeared to increase the likelihood he would stay in San Diego, because the Padres might face less competition to sign him.
Andruw JonesScott Boras' sales pitch with Jones is clear: Even in the worst year of his career, when he hit .222, Jones won his 10th straight Gold Glove award and put up power numbers (26 homers and 94 RBIs) that were comparable to the other elite center fielders on the market. There hasn't been much buzz on Jones, but his situation is steadily evolving. Washington was considered a front-runner for Jones, but the Nationals might have filled their center-field void by trading for the Mets' Lastings Milledge on Friday.
Kosuke FukudomeFor a while, the consensus was that Fukudome would stay in Japan. That's no longer the case. Agent Joe Urbon told ESPN.com that he met with Fukudome in Nagoya, Japan, on Wednesday night and went over the "multiple offers" the outfielder had received from MLB clubs. "Although staying in Japan certainly is an option, it is highly unlikely," Urbon said in an e-mail. The Giants, Rangers and Cubs are among the clubs interested in Fukudome. After parting company with Cliff Floyd and Jacque Jones, the Cubs are looking for a more athletic left-handed hitting outfielder. And Fukudome's .397 career on-base percentage is certainly appealing. "He's kind of a poor man's Carlos Beltran," said a National League personnel man. "He's not top of the line, but a pretty good player. He can run, he can drive the ball in the gaps a little bit, and he can go get it pretty well in the outfield."
Other optionsKenny Lofton, Corey Patterson, Bobby Kielty, Milton Bradley and Darin Erstad are on the free-agent market. And the list of players available in trades includes Coco Crisp, Ryan Freel and Pittsburgh's Nate McLouth and Chris Duffy. Kansas City would be willing to listen on David DeJesus or Joey Gathright, but only if the Royals sign Andruw Jones. Otherwise, the Royals are perfectly content with their configuration in center.
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