Position-by-position trade deadline preview: Center field

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This is the seventh in a series of articles looking at players who might be available in the days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.
B.J. Upton (Rays) – Upton has frustrated the Rays with his lack of effort at times and this makes two straight years in which he hasn’t hit much at all, but it looks like the team still isn’t ready to give up on him. While his name came up in the Cliff Lee rumors and he’s been mentioned in connection with the Nationals, Phillies and Dodgers, the belief is that he’s staying. The Rays aren’t ready to turn center field over to top prospect Desmond Jennings just yet.
Chris Young (Diamondbacks) – Young certainly would have been a lot easier to acquire over the winter. With a .269/.334/.468 line, 17 homers and 63 RBI in 98 games, he’s currently living up to the contract that will pay him $5 million next year, $7 million in 2012, $8.5 million in 2013 and either $11 million or a $1.5 million buyout in 2014. The Diamondbacks as a whole, on the other hand, have continued to disappoint and want to cut back payroll, which is why Young might be available. It’d still be quite a surprise if he were dealt.
Cody Ross (Marlins) – Ross fits better in a corner, but he remains an option in center field. It’s where the Marlins have been using him since they called up Mike Stanton to take over in right. After back-to-back years of 20 homers and OPSs right around 800, Ross is currently hitting .270/.325/.404 with nine homers through 374 at-bats. The Phillies, Braves, Red Sox and Dodgers have expressed interest in him anyway, though the Dodgers would seem to be out of the mix after picking up Scott Podsednik. Because of the Chris Coghlan injury, the Marlins are leaning towards keeping him, at least for a couple of more months. He’ll be a prime non-tender candidate in the offseason if he fails to put up a strong second half.
Coco Crisp (Athletics) – Crisp has had big problems staying on the field the last two years, but he’s the one legitimate leadoff-hitting center fielder potentially available and that would seem to give him some trade value. The Padres bid on him in the offseason and still have a need for him now, and he’d be quite a weapon as a part-timer for the Braves, White Sox, Yankees or Rays. The A’s could choose to retain him and exercise his $5.75 million option for 2011, but as much time as he’s missed, he should come cheaper than that next year.
Jim Edmonds (Brewers) – Back after a year off, Edmonds has posted an impressive .289/.353/.513 line in 197 at-bats for Milwaukee this year. He’s no everyday center fielder at this stage of his career, but his bat makes it worth living with his diminished range, at least when the opponent is throwing a right-hander. He can also serve as a backup first baseman. This is probably his last season, but he hasn’t expressed a desire to finish his career with a World Series contender. The Brewers figure to keep him unless he requests a move next month.
Corey Patterson (Orioles) – Patterson filled in admirably as the Orioles’ leadoff hitter with Brian Roberts on the shelf, and though his production has tailed off recently, he’s still at a respectable .274/.325/.404 in 223 at-bats. He’s also stolen 17 bases in 20 attempts. No contender is going to want him as a regular, but he’d be awfully useful off the bench if he could maintain that kind of line. Too bad most suspect that he can’t.
Willie Harris (Nationals) – Not that he would have brought a king’s ransom in return, but the Nationals missed out on their chance to sell high on Harris a year ago. After three straight seasons in which he proved quite valuable while racking up about 350 at-bats a year, he’s fallen all of the way to .184/.287/.355 in 141 at-bats in 2010. Given that he plays left and right very well, center adequately and second and third if necessary, he could still be a fit for several contenders. A return to Chicago with the White Sox would make some sense.
Chris Dickerson (Reds) – Dickerson, who has been on the DL since the end of April with a broken hamate bone, is hitting .429/.515/.821 through nine games in a rehab assignment with Triple-A Louisville. The strong showing might prompt the Reds to have him replace Laynce Nix on the bench, but they’d likely still be willing to send him elsewhere in return for a prospect. Dickerson is out of options, so sending him down until rosters expand isn’t an option.
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Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.