Pretend the Giants needed a center fielder. Forget about the four or five current center fielders that Giants do have. Forget that three of the only four remotely interesting players on the free agent market are center fielders. Forget about Brian Sabean's secret plan to pour water on the center fielders he does have -- maybe even feeding them after midnight -- in the hopes that even more center fielders will spontaneously generate.
Pretend that you're following a team like the Indians, White Sox, Orioles, Phillies, Braves, Twins, Marlins, Nationals, or Brewers, who might possibly be in the market for a center fielder or left fielder this offseason. Other than the $40M+ options on the free agent market, you notice there's also a player who hit .300/.353/.445 in a slight pitcher's park, has good speed, and plays average defense in center. He wouldn't be a free agent until after 2009, either. This mystery player might sound pretty appealing to you.
Obviously, I'm writing about Randy Winn. It's easy to get hung up on Randy Winn, the Punchless Corner Outfielder, but other teams could see Randy Winn, Productive Center Fielder. And rightfully so. Center fielders are expensive on the open market, and it's not exactly easy to find someone adequate in the field and productive at the plate. The inspiration of this post was a random message board comment on MLB Trade Rumors, which read that Randy Winn "would be a great, affordable option in center" for the Braves.
First reaction: Randy Winn? Here. Take him. No backsies.
Second reaction: Hold on. He was the second-best hitter on the Giants in 2007. Now the best hitter isn't coming back. I understand that the Giants have young outfielders worth a look, but it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to just dump Randy Winn.
Third reaction: Why, why, why, why did Brian Sabean sign Dave Roberts when he had Randy Winn locked up? In what sick mind was another center fielder a priority for the 2007 Giants?
Winn has a limited no-trade clause, which gives him the ability to block trades to ten teams. But trading Randy Winn just to get him off the roster suddenly isn't so appealing to me. The average NL left fielder hit .276/.348/.440, and the average right fielder hit .275/.345/.442. In a lineup with more holes than options, average is a coup. Even if Winn is stuck in a corner slot, he isn't a liability.
It's obvious that the Giants would need to swallow millions of dollars in order for Dave Roberts to go away. Now I'm wondering, though, if there's a way to get value for Winn. After the dust settles on the Rowand/Hunter/Jones frenzy, there might be a lesser frenzy for the center fielders on the trade market. Coco Crisp should be on the trade market...and that's about the only other center fielder of note.
Randy Winn: It ain't bad if we keep him, and maybe we can get some sweet loot for him. Oh, what a difference a season makes.