Scouting The Free Agent Market: Shane Victorino


(Denis Poroy/Getty)

Plugging the right field hole left by the eventually departed Nick Swisher is going to be one of the Yankees’ biggest challenges this winter, especially given their self-inflicted payroll cap heading into next season. Top free agents like Hamilton, Michael Bourn, B.J. Upton, and even Swisher would look wonderful in pinstripes next year, but the team is unlikely to spend the kind of dough required to reel them in. They’ll instead mine the bargain bin.

One free agent outfielder whose stock is down coming off a subpar year is Shane Victorino, who will turn 32 in a little more than a week. The rebuilding-ish Phillies traded him to the Dodgers at the deadline, but he only hit .245/.316/.351 (88 wRC+) in 235 plate appearances with Los Angeles to close out the season. By late-September he was losing playing time to former Yankee Juan Rivera, among others. Victorino is just one year removed from a 13th place finish in the MVP voting though, so let’s see if he has enough left in the tank to help the Yankees.

The Pros

  • Just a .255/.321/.383 (94 wRC+) hitter in 2012, Victorino is one year removed from a .279/.355/.491 (133 wRC+) effort. He owns a 109 wRC+ over the last three seasons and crushes left-handers: .323/.388/.518 (148 wRC+) in this year and .318/.396/.550 (157 wRC+) since 2010.
  • Victorino definitely qualifies as a contact hitter, striking out just 12.0% of the time this season and 11.7% of the time over the last three seasons. His contact rates (86.8% in 2012 and 86.7% since 2010) are strong as well.
  • You’re going to get some walks in addition to that contact as well. He walked in 8.0% of his plate appearances this year and 8.5% since 2010, which is basically league average. Many contact guys are hackers, but not Victorino. He also stole 39 bases this year (87% success rate) and has topped 25 steals five times in the last six years.
  • Victorino remains a strong defensive outfielder, doing his best work in the corners even though he’s more than capable of playing center. His throwing arm isn’t the strongest in the world, but he gets rid of the ball quick and is pretty accurate.
  • For what it’s worth, Victorino plays really hard and that’s always pleasing to the eye. He also has plenty of pennant race and postseason experience given his time with the Phillies.
  • Because he was traded at midseason, the Dodgers could not make Victorino a qualifying offer and thus he won’t require draft pick compensation to sign. I doubt they would have offered anyway.

The Cons

  • Obviously Victorino’s offense took a step back this season, and his struggles come exclusively against right-handers. He hit just .229/.296/.333 (73 wRC+) against righties this year and .244/.311/.390 (91 wRC+) since 2010.
  • Although he avoided the disabled list this season, Victorino has been on the DL three times in the last three years and four times in the last five years. They were all minor strains (thumb, oblique, thigh, calf), but he tends to get banged up by playing so hard. Call it Slade Heathcott Syndrome.

The Pros greatly outweigh the Cons, but the inability to hit right-handers is pretty significant. He can’t hit righties despite being a switch-hitter, meaning he’d be relegated to the short end of the platoon stick. Perhaps the friendly right field porch in Yankee Stadium improves his output from the left side of the plate, but he’s not a big fly ball guy to begin with. He’s a line drive/ground ball guy who uses his speed to reach base. Being unable to hit righties is a pretty huge negative.

We haven’t even reached the Winter Meetings yet, and already we’ve seen two good but flawed outfielders since lucrative multi-year contracts. Torii Hunter landed two guaranteed years from the Tigers despite being 37 years old while Melky Cabrera received two years from the Blue Jays coming off a PED-related suspension. The market is flush with cash and teams seem willing to give that extra year to get their man. The Yankees, however, are fixated on one-year contracts in an effort to get under the luxury tax threshold in 2014.

That commitment to one-year deals hurts their chances to sign Victorino, who will presumably get offered starter money (and playing time) at some point this offseason. He would be the absolute perfect platoon guy/fourth outfielder for New York though given his ability to mash lefties, play all three outfield spots, run, and make contact. The Yankees have had success getting veteran players to take on reduced roles on one-year contracts in recent years, but Victorino strikes me as too young for that. I’d love to see them grab him as an Andruw Jones replacement on a one-year deal, even if they wind up paying him like $8M, but I have a hard time seeing those terms working for the player.

Categories : Hot Stove League


  1. Get Phelps Up says:

    Victorino doesn’t really interest me. I’d rather just sign Ichiro and pair him with a platoon bat like Jonny Gomes.

    • Cris Pengiucci says:

      If Victorino would platoon with Ichiro, that would be great in my mind. Unfortunately, he’ll probably get a better offer, at least in playing time, if not in dollars.

    • Mr. Sparkle says:

      Yeah, Gomes…another home run or strikeout guy who can’t play the field. Might as well bring back Andruw Jones. It’s time to get some contact hitters in the lineup. We don’t need another season of innings consisting of leadoff doubles followed by two strikeouts and a routine fly (in any order of occurrence.)

  2. Jersey Joe says:

    I could work with Victorino and Dickerson in right field with CDick getting starts against tougher righties.

    Would rather not try to get both Ichiro and platoon bat when we have Dickerson to go with Victorino. More defense, more speed, less K’s.

  3. Mike K says:

    I think you may be overstating Victorino’s lack of hitting against righties. It’s just one year of data, and I think we’d expect him to hit more like his career average (wRC+ of 90) which also matches up nicely with his 3 year average. With solid defense (should be even better as a regular corner OF) and plus baserunning, he’s probably about average as a RF vs. righties, and well above average vs. lefties. He’s finished every full season of his career with 2.6 fWAR or better, and even with a very down year last year finished with 3.3 fWAR. I think he’s a great sign for a starting corner OF, and let Dickerson be the 4th OF. All based on cost, of course. Victorino is MUCH better than a 4th OF>

  4. Jersey Joe says:

    If Victorino proves too expensive, could it be possible to get Stubbs from the Reds? He could play any OF position as good as Gardner and just needs a change of scenery. I know NY isn’t always the place for a change of scenery, but in a part-time split with Dickerson, could it really be that bad? We need the righty bat. If the Reds sign a leadoff hitter to play center field, Stubbs is expendable.

  5. Robinson Tilapia says:

    Everything Mike said, basically, although I actually hold out a tiny bit more hope that Victorin would take a smaller deal.

    • Ted Nelson says:


      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        Sometimes, I have no specific answer, Ted.


        • Ted Nelson says:

          I have no idea what he’ll get. I just assume it will be a decent deal since even in 2012 he was around league average offensively for a CF (somewhat subjectively cutting out the corner guys who spent some games in CF). I could be totally wrong, though. There is actually a strong supply of CFs out there this off-season.

          I was just curious to hear the opposite argument.

          • Robinson Tilapia says:

            In the end, I think we all want to believe that guys, especially ones who aren’t in that “cash in” position, would want to be a part of a potential championship team, play with guys like Jeter, Mo, etc., than not. It’s why I’m more willing to entertain the under on a guy who’s not as in command of his own market as others are when it comes to taking on a role player role for less with the Yankees.

            • Ted Nelson says:

              I think it has value, but probably not that much. Especially when there are a lot of other contenders. Guys like Ibanez and Jones and Chavez might forgo a mill or two to play in pinstripes (though they might not have higher bidders), but my guess is Victorino will get some healthy offers… whether in terms of money or playing time (which can lead to money later if he performs). I don’t know of too many guys forgoing serious $ to be a Yankee.

        • MannyGeee says:

          While the logic has some fault, hard to argue with your honesty.

  6. Ted Nelson says:

    I would call signing a starting CF to be the short-end of a corner platoon a video game fantasy. Not to mention a waste of resources.

    “especially given their self-inflicted payroll cap heading into next season.”

    The incentive was not created by the Yankees, it was created by the league.

    • Mr. Sparkle says:

      I agree with most of what you said, but not with moving a CF to a corner being a “video game fantasy.” He played LF with the Dodgers. Plus many other players have successfully made that move, most recently of note: Torii Hunter who was at one point arguably the top defensive CF in baseball.

      A video game fantasy is more like signing Josh Hamilton and Torii Hunter and re-signing Ichiro while keeping Gardner and Granderson with the idea of platooning all of them.

      (For the record, I would not sign Hamilton and I know Hunter already signed with Detroit. This was just an example using this season’s market.)

      Another video game fantasy might be trading a bunch of dime-a-dozen bench players and some borderline class A prospects for an all-star shortstop, 2/5ths of your starting rotation including a potential ace and a solid utility guy. Oh, wait a minute…

      • Ted Nelson says:

        I was more saying that paying him CF $ to play 1/3 of the time in a corner is a video game fantasy because in the video game it’s play money.

        “Another video game fantasy might be trading a bunch of dime-a-dozen bench players and some borderline class A prospects”

        Guess you don’t know much about who the Jays actually traded to the Marlins, huh? Escobar is one of the better starting SS in baseball making only $5 mill per the next 3 seasons. Hechevarria, Marisnick, and Alvarez are no where near A ball. You described half the players they traded and either ignored or are ignorant to the other half. Nicolino, by the way, is an attempt to grab a top prospect before he blossoms… like Tyler Skaggs for the DBacks.

    • Cris Pengiucci says:

      The incentive may have been created by the league, but the payroll cap is still self-inflicted by the Yankees. No reason they couldn’t choose to forego the cost savings (other than wanting to maximize profits).

      • Ted Nelson says:

        If we assume irrationality as the natural state of things, we can’t expect anyone to do anything. If we assume that actors are rational and acting in their own self-interest in some way, we can actually have some idea of how others will react to our actions.

        While technically they control their own payroll, they are unlikely to act against their own self-interest. They’re not being coerced and there are situations where it might actually be in their self-interest to go over. However, the rules of the game are not decided by them. Not a perfect example, but… Say you would like to sleep with someone. They decline your offer. You “decide” not to force yourself on them. Sure, it was your decision… but it’s not common to say “I decided not to rape her/him” or “not having sex with that person was self-inflicted.” They changed your incentives for you… being totally immoral and possibly spending a few years in jail made your decision pretty easy.

        • Cris Pengiucci says:

          Agree, certainly not a perfect example. Up until this year, the Yankees decided, on their own, to pay the luxury taxes in place. MLB has increased the penalty imposed on teams. The Yankees could have decided (and still can) that going over the luxury tax threshold and paying more in taxes and to small market teams while putting a better product on the field will provide more bvalue to the organization long term than saving ~$100M in the short term. It is their decision based on what they see as being in their best interst.

          • Ted Nelson says:

            Because of? The rules imposed by MLB. MLB (meaning the other owners…) imposed a dramatically different incentive structure. The Yankees didn’t choose to change their behavior under the same rules. They decided to do so specifically because the rules changed.

            If you can’t recognize that this was ultimately caused by the shift in incentive structures imposed by MLB… I don’t know what to tell you. It’s really clear.

            • Robinson Tilapia says:

              You guys are sort of arguing in circles here. Just letting you know.

              • Ted Nelson says:

                Agreed. In terms of who “inflicted” this payroll restraint, though, I can’t see how it’s not MLB. Without the new rules, there’s no evidence at all that the Yankees would have limited payroll below what they’ve been spending.

                I don’t disagree with Cris that the Yankees are making a decision, or that they could decide to exceed the threshold. I disagree with Mike and then Cris in his first comment that the restraint is “self-inflicted.” The cause is the rule based on all the evidence we have.

          • Ted Nelson says:

            Here’s a different example for you: you go to the store every day and buy an apple for $1. One day the store raises it’s prices and charges you $101 for an apple, though neither their costs nor your demand has actually changed materially. You “decide” not to buy an apple. While you could have ponied up and bought an apple, would you say your lack of an apple that day was “self-imposed?” In a sense you made the decision, but impetus behind the decision was in actuality largely out of your control.

            The first player the Yankees sign over the $189 million will cost the team maybe $100 million or whatever the number actually is.

        • jjyank says:

          “If we assume irrationality as the natural state of things, we can’t expect anyone to do anything. If we assume that actors are rational and acting in their own self-interest in some way, we can actually have some idea of how others will react to our actions.”

          Ha, thanks for bringing my back to my old Poli Sci class rooms, Ted.

        • LK says:

          There are plenty of ways one could argue that putting the best quality product on the field, even if it means incurring the luxury tax/revenue sharing penalties, is in the team’s rational best interest.

          • Ted Nelson says:

            A. I literally say that it’s possible in the very comment you responded to.

            B. It would mean that the more expensive team is worth tens and probably hundreds of millions more to the Yankees than the less expensive team. While possible, it’s unlikely. Payroll and wins are far from perfectly correlated in the first place. If they get in a position where their team is not doing well, it might make sense to take on payroll to win. As it stands, they won the most games in the AL last season and are looking at bringing back a similar team.

  7. mt says:

    Given Melky and Torii contracts I think there are very few people that will sign for just one year. I do not see Victorino signing just a one year deal. I think Yanks will be doing well to get Ichiro (maybe it will be two years but money should be less than Hunter or Victorino, hopefully he will sign for one year) plus Scott Hairston or Jonny Gomes on a one year deal.

    I would hope we could overpay Hairston for a one year deal to avoid him going elsewhere for a two year deal. Hairston could be the short side of platoon (along with Ichiro as platoon partner) plus Hairston could be occasional righty DH (on the non-Alex and non-Jeter days). He could also back up Gardner (or Grandy) in left or play rightfield 100% of the time if Ichiro has to replace a hurt Grandy or Gardner in center. Also sign Ibanez but strictly as lefty DH and true emergency outfielder. Hairston would get a lot of at bats with Gardner, Grandy and Ichiro on roster.

    Danger of this is if both Grandy and Ichiro absolutely tank against lefties at the same time – Hairston is only one person – he cannot replace both (assuming there will always be a lefty batter – whether Gardner, Grandy or Ichiro – in centerfield no matter how bad all of them may be slumping aginst lefty pitchers at the same time.)

  8. There's the Door says:

    A baller, but not the kind of player we need, nor the kind of free agent that has succeeded here in the past. See Dave Collins.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      Dave Collins didn’t go too well in NYC……wait, DAVE COLLINS is your example?!?!

      • Mr. Sparkle says:

        I think his point WAS that Dave Collins was a flop. Saying he’s not “the kind of free agent that has succeeded here in the past.”

        It’s probably not the best example since Collins came here solely for the ton of money they threw at him and hated it from day one. That’s not going to happen with Victorino or likely anyone else in this offseason.

        • RetroRob says:

          Dave Collins was never as good as Shane Victorino, and was part of George’s brief, ill-fated speed obsession; a plan that was thrown out the window as soon as the ink dried on Collins’ contract.

          I’m actually a fan of Victorino and think he’d be a solid addition, even if he’s reduced from his peak. If the price is right, a two-year deal is not a bad investment. I mean, someone is going to be playing RF in 2014!

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          Collins was also (and keep in mind that, at this point, this is less the memory of a then-seven-year-old and more what I’ve read about him since) about signing the name, regardless of where than name was going to fit in.

          I’d say that’s pretty much the opposite of how we’re currently seeing a guy like Cashman operate.

  9. mitch says:

    I’d probably give him a couple years…maybe 2/16 or something like that. I think he’s a great buy-low guy who definitely has the potential to out play his contract.

    I understand not giving torii hunter the extra year because he could drop off and become a sunk cost, but how does locking up a 31 year old through 2014 become payroll issue? An $8 mil contract for a guy who could definitely give you a productive 400+ ABs is exactly the way to build a great team under 189mil

    • Cris Pengiucci says:

      At the right price on a 2 year deal, he could allow some OF flexibility, either in the ’13 season (if an appropriate trade can be made to move Granderson) or the ’14 season if Granderson isn’t re-signed and not enough (or any) of the minor league guys aren’t ready.

  10. RetroRob says:

    I don’t see this being a market for bargains.

    Increased revenue on the way, more restrictive draft rules, and the addition of a Wild Card in each league and with it the promise of increased revenue, means bargain hunting will be quite tough. No Kuroda’s this year at $10M.

    The early signings we’ve seen so far are by teams trying to get ahead of the curve and find value before the big name and big dollar signings, in fear once the big names start dropping it will drive up the prices of the next tiers. Yet the teams trying to get ahead early are not really getting great bargains. Torii Hunter is recognized as having had a fluke year, driven by his .389 BABIP, yet was given a two-year, $26M deal that will take him through age 39. Brandon League, Seattle’s first defrocked and then traded closer, scored a minimum $22.5M deal that could go as high as $33.5M, and he never even played the free-agent market. That led to Jeremy Affeldt’s three-year, $18M deal. Melky Cabrera was supposed to get a one-year deal, but landed a two-year, $16M deal despite limiting his market to specific teams and not waiting for desperation to set in other markets after they don’t sign their first choices.

    Prices are increasing just as the Yankees are cutting back. There will always be bargains despite what I said at the start, but the price of those bargains are going up. Hopefully the Yankees understand that; otherwise, they may find they’re always going to be coming up short this offseason.

  11. Jersey Joe says:

    I feel like Ichiro = Dickerson. Come at me bro with counter-arguments.

  12. mitch says:

    I just don’t get all the love for ichiro. It’s not like he’s going to play for the league minimum. I’d guess he gets at least 6 or 7 million. Why not spend a little extra and get a guy who’s younger and better like victorino?

  13. craig says:

    I think Victorino is a perfect fit. He provides a bit a pop + speed + good defense. He can play center if you need him to. I agree that Mike has overstated his ineffectiveness against RHP. You can’t expect to get a great RH hitter cheap to balance the lineup and then complain that he has trouble against RHP.

    Victorino has been pretty consistent in his production and a 2 year deal (with an option?) would give the Yankees a couple of years for Slade, Austin, Williams, etc to develop.

    In theory, this would also allow them to trade Granderson for prospects to use to get Justin Upton…dreaming, dreaming, dreaming.

  14. Boys of Summer says:

    So news corp is going to pay 500 million dollars for its share of yes and the Yankees stil can’t afford to sign anyone? Am I missing something here???

  15. FLYER7 says:

    I say Victorino and Ichiro and not sign Ibanez or send Granderson packing and sign Ichiro…

  16. Yank the Frank says:

    I can hear it now “It is high, it is far, ALOHA!

  17. MannyGeee says:

    There is no logical reason why Victorino should be on this team in 2013. He will get offered more playing time, more money, and more years elsewhere. I would imagine we’d have a better chance of seeing Victorino in Pinstripes in 2017 than in 2013…

    That said, if the stars were to align, and Victorino were to land in our collective laps…. well, that would be just awesome.

  18. Jonathan says:

    So the 2009 WS ending tap out should be in the pros

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