Outfielder Rumors: Tomas, Kemp, Bruce, Joyce

 It has been a busy week for the hot stove as Russell Martin, Billy Butler, Adam LaRoche, and Jason Heyward have all found new homes. The Seattle Mariners were involved in talks with Martin before he signed a five-year, $82 million with the Toronto Blue Jays. Butler was thought to be a primary target of the M’s but ended up taking a three-year deal with the Oakland Athletics. LaRoche didn’t appear to be on Seattle’s radar at all despite the fact that the club has a need at first base and/or DH and could conceivably used his 20-plus home run bat.

It’s well known that the Mariners are in the market for outfielders and have been most notably linked to Justin Upton of the Atlanta Braves who are reportedly shopping their star. Let’s take a look at the latest rumors surrounding potential outfield targets.

Yasmany Tomas has been a hot topic of late with connections to the Braves, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres — who have reportedly made offers, according to Peter Gammons — and Boston Red Sox. There’s a possibility that Tomas’ landing spot will in part be determined by where free agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval decides to sign. The Giants, Padres, and Red Sox are believed to be the finalists for Sandoval with the Giants and Padres ready to turn their full attention to Tomas should they not land Kung Fu Panda.

Gammons also points out that Seattle is still in the picture for the Cuban outfielder but are on the outside looking in. The M’s have been linked to Tomas previously, but haven’t been connected recently and aren’t believed to have extended an offer. Tomas, 24, would provide a serious boost to the middle of the Mariners lineup and plug a hole in the outfield, though his defensive abilities aren’t particularly well regarded. It’s projected that Tomas could sign a six or seven-year contract worth as much as $100 million.

Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp has long been coveted by the Mariners with interest dating previous to this time last year. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that Kemp is the most likely outfielder to be traded by the Dodgers as he’s received serious interest from clubs. Los Angeles is expected to deal a veteran outfielder this winter but moving Carl Crawford and the $62.25 million owed to him is unlikely. The other veteran in question is Andre Ethier who is owed slightly less than Crawford over the next three years at $56 million. Both have question marks and injury concerns.

The Dodgers preference is to keep Kemp as right-handed hitting Hanley Ramirez is unlikely to return. However the club wants to be able to use top prospect Joc Pederson in center field which would force Kemp to left — Yasiel Puig and his arm would move to right — where he was dreadful in the field. I suggested in the summer that Scott Van Slyke, who could also be dealt to make room, might be a good target for the Mariners.

Kemp was able to restore some of his value after an improved 2014 campaign but it is still expected that the Dodgers will include salary relief in any deal, especially if it improves the return. LA has holes at shortstop, third base, and in the pitching staff which would make current Mariners such as Brad Miller, Chris Taylor, Tom Wilhelmsen, and Brandon Maurer attractive trade targets. The Dodgers did add to their bullpen when they picked up Joel Peralta from the Tampa Bay Rays in a trade earlier this week.

[pullquote]Free agent outfielder Torii Hunter has been garnering interest but it doesn’t appear that the M’s will be involved. He is believed to be seeking a one-year deal and the right-hander is still strong in the field and is very well regarded by teammates.[/pullquote]

The Cincinnati Reds are willing to discuss several higher-profile players including Jay Bruce according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The two-time All-Star is coming off a down year as he struggled to return from offseason knee surgery. Prospect Insider’s Jason A. Churchill notes that Bruce’s left-handed bat probably keeps him on the back-burner for the Mariners who are targeting right-handed bats. But, if Seattle were to pick-up a right-handed bat or two in the meantime — Justin Upton and Nelson Cruz are still very much possibilities — potentially targeting Bruce would seem more likely.

Bruce is due $24.5 million over the next two seasons and has a $13 million option for 2017 with a $1 million buyout. The left-hander will turn 28 in April and has three 30-plus home run seasons under his belt.

The Rays have reportedly made Matt Joyce available in trade talks according to Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. The 30-year old has been an above average hitter throughout his career and posted a .254/.349/.383 line with a 113 wRC+ in 2014. The left-hander is average defensively in either corner spot but did post a 3.5 fWAR season in 2011. Joyce made $3.7 million as a second-year arbitration player and will likely receive another raise in 2015 before hitting free agency.

Morosi says that Joyce is comparable to Bruce though at first glance, the Reds outfielder is the superior player. It’s likely that Joyce would come cheaper than Bruce, but would have less club control. Seattle already has a left-handed hitting outfielder who is better overall than Joyce in Michael Saunders, but are expected to trade the Canadian in the coming weeks.

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