The uncertainly of the outfield continues to be the subject of most of what little headlines have concerned the Cardinals at the early stages of this year’s Winter Meetings. The most recent stir (UPDATE: there has now been an even more recent stir) involves Jarrod Dyson, after Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the Cardinals have expressed interest in the Kansas City outfielder.
Here’s what we know about Dyson: He’s entering his age-32 season. He’s a relatively cheap option (he’s projected here to only command about $2.5 million in 2017) and is due to become a free agent after next season. He saw action all over the outfield for the Royals in 2016 but spent the bulk of his time in center. Wherever he plays, he does it quite exceptionally. Our friends at Royals Review called him indispensable as recently as late-August for his defense alone.
Ultimate Zone Rating is a simple tool to help measure how much better or worse a player is compared to an average player at converting balls into outs, and we can even use UZR/150 to pro-rate playing time to 150 games, to account for the fact Dyson is a part-timer. Since he became a Major League semi-regular in 2012, Dyson is fifth among all centerfielders in baseball in UZR/150, according to Fangraphs, ahead of even Lorenzo Cain. Billy Burns is 58th, behind guys like Andre Ethier and Marcell Ozuna.
By Defensive Runs Saved, Dyson is sixth over that time, despite playing in half the innings of the seventh-place centerfielder, Carlos Gomez. By Range Runs, measuring how much ground he covers in centerfield, he is third behind only Lorenzo Cain and Billy Hamilton.
And holy smokes, just look at this catch:
The flip side is that Dyson doesn’t amount to much at the plate. He has a career 86 wRC+, although like a lot of hitters he’s improved with age and last year he reached base 34% of the time. And if his excellent glove was regularly on display in centerfield I’m not sure how much his limited offense is of concern.
The “regularly on display” might be the big issue with Dyson. He’s never eclipsed more than 340 plate appearances in a single season and more than one person wondered aloud on Twitter if this would be a repeat of the Peter Bourjos experiment in St. Louis, who was perceived by some to be unfairly buried on the bench by Mike Matheny. In total, I think the Cardinals should aim higher than Dyson but there’s enough upside there to talk myself into it if that’s where we are a week from now.
In other news, Andrew McCutchen is still being shopped around and a “mystery team” has entered the fray. Ignoring all of 2016 (generally not a bad idea), it sure is fun to imagine him in a Cardinals uniform but I’m not sure the 2017 version of McCutchen fits in well with the current configuration of this lineup. And if it’s true that the Pirates asked for both Lucas Giolito and Victor Robles from the Nationals then it’s probably a non-starter anyway.
As for that mystery team, Grant Brisbee has some thoughts on that: