Colby Rasmus received more attention for his tense relationship with manager Tony La Russa becoming public than for his outstanding sophomore season, as he managed to lead all MLB center fielders in OPS as a 23-year-old without much fanfare.
La Russa benching him versus many left-handers (and then simply benching him for a while, period) kept Rasmus’ counting stats somewhat modest, but when given the chance to face southpaws he hit .270 with an .810 OPS off them and his overall production was spectacular for his age and position.
Rasmus joined Ken Griffey Jr., Fred Lynn, Grady Sizemore, Andruw Jones, Dusty Baker, and Lloyd Moseby as the only center fielders in the past 50 years to top an .850 OPS as 23-year-olds. That’s some pretty great company and the improvements Rasmus made in plate discipline and power from his so-so rookie year to his standout sophomore campaign have me believing he’s capable of even more.
His high strikeout rate is an issue and could keep Rasmus from ever posting huge batting averages, but the rest of his all-around game is strong enough to make him a superstar anyway. He’s a plus defensive center fielder with 30-homer power, above-average speed, and enough patience to get on base at a good clip even if his batting average is mediocre. His production last season flew under the radar somewhat, but assuming La Russa stops shielding him from lefties Rasmus’ counting stats will rise this year and should make it clear to everyone that he’s among the elite center fielders in baseball.
In light of the Astros’ deal for veteran designated hitter Carlos Beltran on Saturday, the Yankees are thought to be intensifying their pursuit of free agent Edwin Encarnacion, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. The Yankees never made an official offer to Beltran, but remain in need of a DH/first baseman to give them a little more power outside of a Tyler Austin–Greg Bird combo in 2017.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, are reportedly withdrawing their interest when it comes to the Encarnacion sweepstakes. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, they will look for a hitter to beef up their lineup without taking a “big plunge” on the 34-year-old.
Encarnacion enjoyed another All-Star run with the Blue Jays in 2016, hitting at a .263/.357/.529 clip with 42 homers and a league-leading 127 RBI in 702 PA. He’s expected to command a significant contract in free agency, and agent Paul Kinzer said that a potential deal is unlikely to be finalized before the Winter Meetings as Encarnacion is not close to agreeing to any offer. Interested teams include the Blue Jays and the Astros, though Beltran’s signing appears to have effectively taken Houston out of the running for the slugger.
The Nationals are trying to go big this offseason, and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes that they are still in trade talks for White Sox’ left-hander Chris Sale and Pirates’ center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Both players figure to command a big return, as Sale delivered another Cy Young-worthy performance in 2016 and, despite a downturn in his production rate, McCutchen is still one of the more coveted sluggers in the National League.
In 2016, Sale led the league in complete games, with six, and turned in a 3.34 ERA and 5.2 fWAR in 226 2/3 innings. While teams have been sniffing around the White Sox’ ace since the trade deadline, the club is expected to maintain a high asking price — so high, said FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, that it may keep the left-hander in Chicago for the foreseeable future.
According to Heyman, four other teams are reportedly in the mix for Sale, including the Red Sox, Astros, Rangers, and Braves, though parts of Rosenthal’s tweet hinted that the Red Sox were maintaining their interest in hopes of striking a more affordable deal. Should the Nationals pursue a deal for Sale, it’s likely that they’d have to move shortstop/center fielder Trea Turner, which they appear reluctant to do.
McCutchen, meanwhile, is also drawing interest around the league after batting .256/.336/.430 with 24 home runs in 675 PA during 2016. He didn’t appear to lose much power in his eighth season with the Pirates, but took considerably fewer walks and struck out at a career-high clip.
The Nationals were said to be in the lead for McCutchen on Thursday, and there was some expectation that the club would wrap up a trade for the center fielder by the non-tender deadline on Friday. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi pointed out that the Rangers were also talking to the Pirates, however, and no deal has come to fruition as of yet.