Yurikson Profar is the top player at the unsigned position, with the slugger still lingering on the open market after opting out of his deal with the Padres. Even with spring training just a few weeks away, there isn’t much clarity on his likely landing spot.
The Rangers, Marlins, Red Sox, Astros, Rockies and Yankees were all loosely tied with him in points this offseason. Houston and Boston made other significant acquisitions in left field (Michael Brantley and Masataka Yoshida, respectively). Colorado’s reported interest was pretty quickly downplayed, while Miami has since moved on Jazz Chisholm Jr in center field – thereby pushing players like Brian de la Cruz and Jesus Sanchez in the conversation in the left field.
While the Yankees still have a questionable left field mix, it doesn’t look like they plan on continuing to increase payroll. Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported last week that the club doesn’t want to go over the fourth and final luxury tax barrier, set at $293 million for the 2023 season. That would essentially give them some breathing room unless they throw some cash into deal. Even then, going back to Profar may not be in the cards. The Athletic’s Brendan Cutty wrote this morning that the club were hampered by Profar’s asking price. General manager Brian Cashman indicated on SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio over the weekend that Aaron Hicks is likely to get first crack in left field (h/t to Brian Hoch of MLB.com).
Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic reported yesterday that the Orioles were involved in the Profar market. The asking price may be too high for Baltimore’s taste as well, as Rosenthal adds that the front office isn’t particularly bullish on their chances of making a deal.
Profar would be a curious fit for the Orioles even before considering the financial implications. While he started his career as a midfielder, he rated poorly as a defender. That was largely due to throwing accuracy issues that peaked in 2019, when he made 11 throwing errors from second base as a member of the Athletics. As of this year, he has been mostly limited to corner outfield work. Profar saw sporadic action on the right side of the infield in 2020-21 and didn’t play anywhere but left field last year.
Most clubs probably wouldn’t see him as anything more than an emergency outfield corner option. Baltimore has no way at bats in either left or right field right now. Austin Hayes and Anthony Santander make a capable tandem. Santander has more power than Profar. Hayes and Profar have performed at similar levels over the past few seasons, so it’s unlikely Baltimore views the free agent as a significant upgrade.
However, Profar’s breakthrough could have freed up the O’s to deal one of their infielders. General manager Mike Elias noted last week that the team is still looking for ways to bolster the rotation, and Rosenthal wrote that they are considering trade options for starting pitching. Hayes or Santander could appeal to a club 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 deal would leave O to rely heavily on a rookie Kyle Stowers unless they subsequently add experienced field help.
While it’s hard to find the perfect landing spot for Profar, he’s a decent everyday left fielder. A hitter with quality contact skills and a patient approach, he has hit above average in two of the last three years. Profar was a staple of the lineup last season in San Diego, appearing in 152 games and recording 658 plate appearances. He hit .243/.331/.391 with 15 home runs and 36 doubles. That production checked out 10 percentage points above league average, as measured by wRC+, after accounting for the league-wide power drop and the pitcher-friendly nature of Petco Park.
Profar is still just 30 years old and has a case for a multi-year deal after this solid season. That was certainly his expectation when he opted out of the final $6.5 million of his contract with the Friars at the start of the offseason. He should still be able to top that, though his extended stay on the open market seems to suggest he hasn’t found the level of interest his camp expected. Michael Comfort and Trey Mancini each secured two-year waiver clauses this offseason, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Profar do the same after finally agreeing to terms. Exceeding the $14 million guaranteed to Mancini — who is a year older and performs less offensively — should be achievable.
The Rangers, where Profar began his career after being rated as a top prospect, still need to improve in left field through free agency or trade. The Padres could back down given the front office’s longtime affinity for the outfielder, though they may be nearing their spending limit. That goes for the Braves and Dodgers, two contenders who have room for improvement in left field on paper. A rebuilding club like the Royals or Tigers could look at Profar as a deadline deal candidate. That would probably only be attractive if he didn’t secure an opt-out, which would otherwise greatly reduce his commercial appeal. If Profar stays on the market much longer, it’s possible that the inevitable injuries around the league at the start of spring training could create another opportunity or two, though his preference is sure to be signed by the time camps begin to open.