The Complete Case for ... CFers you've probably never heard of!

This is Brian Goodwin. Don't pretend like you knew that. - Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

One thing I've learned from watching the A's front office operate for almost 20 years now, is that they rarely go after the obvious candidates for the positions they need to fill. The reasons for that go beyond the scope of this post, but suffice it to say that while we're all laser-focused on "A-list" types to fill the gaping hole in centerfield for the foreseeable future, the FO probably has another "A's-list" of "under the radar guys" who might be 80% as effective as those guys, but will only cost 10% as much...

In various threads, we've hemmed and hawed over the premiere guys who would fit the bill for the "A-list": Kevin Kiermaier & Ender Enciarte at the top, IMHO, Pompey and Pollock right below them, and I'd include Jon Jay as a free agent option in that same conversation. These guys are the obvious fits, but each (probably) would be too expensive for the A's, either in terms of prospects (KK, Enciarte, Pompey, Pollock) or in FA money (Jay), not to mention each one might not even be made all that available...

Assuming those guys aren't "gettable", I wanted to throw out some names of buy-low and under-the-radar types who could plug the hole and might provide some surprising production for a very low cost. I restricted my search to guys with CF experience, positive defensive metrics, in the 30 and younger age range, on teams that have transacted business with the A's recently and will probably be available for something really light.

Here are some options, sorted in my own personal of "most intriguing" to "least intriguing":

Brian Goodwin - WAS Nationals - Age 25 - Bats left/throw right - less than 1 year service time

A high draft pick (2011) and once top prospect, Goodwin stalled for awhile in the minors, but had a pretty good year in AAA this past season before finally getting his first callup last week: .280/.349/..438 with 14 homers and 15 steals. He's no slam dunk, but he's pretty much a finished product at this point and provides a relatively high degree of upside given his age and pedigree.

Why he might be available: the National's contention window is pretty much right now and the next year or two while they still have Bryce Harper. It seems like they are content with their middle-infield of Espinosa-Murphy, so they've converted Trea Turner into a, they have a speedy/young option in center already. And behind Turner, they have another power-speed/young guy in Michael Taylor who can also fill the position, plus the final year of Ben Revere's service - who, despite being absolutely horrible this season, has been a pretty reliable 1-2 WAR CFer for most of his career (who is still only 28) . Plus, Beane seems to have a very good trade relationship with the National's front office.

Projected cost: Despite having other young options in CF, I doubt the Nationals just give Goodwin away. It'll take something of actual value to seal the deal. The Nationals could lose their starting catcher in free agency this winter (Wilson Ramos) - they have a couple of catching prospects, but probably not one who could step in and lead a vet staff like they have and Jose Lobaton is not that guy. So, they might ask for Vogt in exchange here. I probably wouldn't do that deal. They could also be on the lookout for late game bullpen help. I'd probably do any of Madson, Axford or Hendricks for Goodwin straight-up. My guess is that Hendriks would be palatable for both sides...

Michael Taylor - WAS Nationals - Age 25 - Bats right/throw right - under control for 4 more seasons

Speaking of Taylor, he seems like a prime "change of scenery" candidate. He's got a real exciting power/speed combination, with a big contact problem, but plenty of success in the minors. He'd be available for similar reasons as Goodwin, and would probably cost about the same or a little less. His defense in center is legit and he's still young enough to harness his considerable offensive potential...he's probably the best pure upside play of this group, though with big bust potential.

Kirk Niuewenhaus - Milwaukee Brewers - Age 29 - Bats L/Throws R - Under club control for 3 more seasons

Kirk is a really interesting player, IMHO. First things first: he strikes out. A LOT. He's K'd in exactly 1/3 of every PA so far this season (33.1% of his plate appearances). But, on the flipside, he's also walking at a well-above average 14.6% clip. He's basically completely useless against LHP (39 wRC+ career), but despite his high-K ways, is a tick above average against RHP (104 wRC+ career). He's not a speed burner, but has swiped 8 bags so far this season, has posted positive BsR numbers in each of the past 3 seasons and is seen as a pretty darn good defensive center fielder.

Alex Chamberlain at Fangraphs wrote this about him before the season: "Nieuwenhuis hits the snot out of the ball — his 40.3% hard-hit rate ranks 8th among all hitters during 2014-15 with at least 250 plate appearances." With contact issues, but a high hard-hit rate when he does make contact, Kirk kind of reminds me of a left-handed hitting version of Khris Davis...if Davis could also play a really good center field and walked more. That's a really interesting combination of skills. Of course, coming to a less-friendly home hitting environment like Oakland combined with major contact issues could literally destroy the career of someone like there is huge bust potential...but there is also some payoff to be had if you can live with the K's and just rigorously platoon the guy.

Why he'd be available: The Crew is probably a year or two away from being true contenders, and have a stud CFer in Lewis Brinson close to ready and another potential stud CF-type in Brett Phillips who has had some ups and downs in AA this season, but has real high upside and will be ready soon.

Projected cost: I'd say a mid-level prospect (think Yairo Munoz or Casey Meisner)...less than what Davis cost. Despite somewhat similar profiles, Kirk is older than Davis and comes with less club control.

Jaff Decker - Tampa Bay Rays - Age 26 - Bats L/Throws L - Under control for 5 more seasons

I'm reaching pretty deep here on this one...Decker's been a "prospect" a long time...since being a HS 1st round pick of the Padres back in '08. Despite all that, he's still just 26 and is fresh off of a 129 wRC+ 2016 in AAA with 12 homers and 18 steals. His profile is somewhat intriguing: real high walk rates, manageable k-rates, middling average, with good speed and some power. I haven't seen any recent scouting reports on his defense, but at least by B-Ref, it shows him with over 200 games in CF and decent fielding % and range factors.

Why he's be available: he was already DFA'd and outrighted once by the Rays this season, and if they aren't moving Kiermaier any time soon, there is no room for Decker on the big club.

Projected cost: not much. Maybe an A-ball lottery ticket?


Admittedly, this is not an exciting list. But, what it shows to me is that there are guys out there with the profile we are looking for - youngish, primarily lefty-swinging, defensively sound centerfielders, under control for awhile - who could be had for a fraction of what we are bandying about for the premier players.

Personally, if we aren't getting Kiermaier and/or Enciarte, I'd honestly be content with converting Barreto to CF this winter, have him play the position to start next season in AAA and then pick up one or two of the above guys for peanuts to a) see if we can catch lighting in the bottle, and b) improve the defense during a likely transition season.

My vote on the above guys? Goodwin all the way...pretty much exactly what we are looking for, high upside, likely available for a piece we'd be willing to surrender and seems to have put it all together in AAA right as he is reaching his prime years.

If we're going the bargain-bin route this off-season, and you get Goodwin, I'd continue on and would grab some depth swingmen types in free agency (Jesse Chavez, Jorge de la Rosa, Scott Feldman) and maybe even do a salary swap deal with Atlanta to get Nick Markakis in return for maybe Butler, Axford and/or Lowrie.

SP - Gray-Manaea-Graveman-Triggs-de la Rosa (Mengden, Cotton, Hahn, Alcantara, Gossett)

RP - Doo-Dull-Madson-Montas-Wahl-LOOGY-Chavez (F-Rod, Healy, Coulumbe, Detwiler, Wendelken)

LF - Davis/Eibner/Brugman

CF - Goodwin/A Alcantara

RF - Markakis/Smolinski

3B - Healy

SS - Semien

2B - Wendle/Pinder

1B - Vogt/Valencia

DH - Valencia

You see how that group does in the first half, then get Chapman and Olson after a month or two and slot-in Barreto wherever needed between SS, 2B or CF. At that point you've still got most of your pitching depth and can make a more impactful mid-season trade once you get an idea if you have the horses to be competitive sooner rather than later...

It's all really not my Plan A (Kiermaier and Smyly) nor even my Plan B (Jon Jay and Brandon Moss in FA), but as a Plan C, it has some merits in a likely transition year...addresses the key needs of the org at value prices while young guys cycle up...