Co-written with John Arguello
Theo Epstein today said he'd operate as if Brett Jackson was going to start the year in AAA. That leaves CF wide open. He also implied today that the Cubs wouldn't bid heavily on FAs, so that would seem to rule out someone like B.J. Upton.
Theo also said the team values Alfonso Soriano and will only trade him if they get value in return. They've been unsuccessful in that pursuit so far and while Soriano has quelled some doubts with his good season and improved defense, he's still difficult to trade -- in part because of his contract and then, of course, there is that no-trade clause.
So what are the Cubs going to do in the OF?
Tom: The Cubs outfield picture is very murky. It’s really hard to figure out what moves may be made without knowing the future of Alfonso Soriano.
I have a hunch Soriano will be back. He proved to have some value to the club since his defense became less of a disaster. I don’t think the Cubs will want to eat as much money at they would have last offseason. Dale Sveum says some power is on his wish list. So if Sori sticks around you would think third base and outfield is where that pop could come from.
The jury is still very much out on Brett Jackson and that goes for me too. I still believe if the Cubs are patient (and they will be) they can develop him into a pretty valuable player. Jackson will almost assuredly start the season off in Iowa and have his swing reworked a lot like what Anthony Rizzo experienced this year.
The Cubs should be in the market for a center fielder. When it comes to potential trade candidates, I haven’t identified anyone that jumps out just yet. I do think a good gamble would be the oft-injured Grady Sizemore or former Cub Angel Pagan. Either one of these players could easily move to a corner position, be a fourth outfielder, or be dealt if they thrive. If the Cubs move Soriano, they could look at corner outfielders and temporarily move David DeJesus to center until Jackson shows he is ready.
The future of the position looks to be promising with Jackson, Matt Szczur, and Albert Almora all in the organization, but for now they need a legit option to start the season at the least.
John: I'm not so sure the Cubs CF won't be David DeJesus. With that in mind, I think the Cubs will keep themselves flexible and also look at good corner OF'ers with solid defense and either slugging or OBP skills. If they can get all 3...great. But finding someone like that in the bargain bin should prove to be a little difficult.
I like Tom's ideas of Grady Sizemore on a one-year, prove your healthy sort of deal and Angel Pagan as a switch hitting CF with extra base power and solid defense. Both would fit as short term solutions.
I think Sizemore is almost certainly a corner OF at this stage and it would mean moving DeJesus back to CF. If he's healthy, maybe he regains value and gives you a trade chip at the deadline. Of course, that 's a huge "if".
Pagan had a 4.7 WAR season and I worry that even though he's not a big name, that there are enough GMs out there that are aware of how good he is. I agree with Tom that he's someone the Cubs would be interested in signing. I just don't know if they will get value as many teams could use a switch-hitting CF with good OBP and slugging skills. I think he's a perfect fit if the price doesn't get too high. He's certainly the kind of player the Cubs should be looking to acquire.
So who else is out there?
Cody Ross is a solid OF'er who can play all 3 OF positions and gives you some RH power. Ross tends to have an inflated sense of self-worth, however, asking for a multi-year deal last offseason despite coming off a just above replacement level year. I imagine he'll once again look for a 3 year deal.
Delmon Young is the right age (27), but questionable mental makeup, a bad approach at the plate, and poor defense likely outweighs that.
As far as trades go, I'd look at the newly arb eligible players, particularly young talents who either aren't playing full time or haven't lived up to expectations. I'd further break those down into guys who play solid to good defense and have a somewhat disciplined approach at the plate. Here is that list...
- Travis Snider
- Nolan Reimold
- Gerardo Parra
- Roger Bernandina
I'd also look into Chris Young's availability. His 5 yr/28M deal expires after 2013, though he does still have a team option for 2014. This makes him a potential trade chip should he bounce back. He has the kind of plate discipline and defense the front office likes while having the power that Sveum wants. The Diamondbacks have a surplus of outfielders with Parra, Young, Jason Kubel, Adam Eaton, and Justin Upton. The D'Backs have been rumored to be shopping Upton, so it would seem they are looking to clear that logjam.
And speaking of Upton...isn't he an option too? In my opinion, he's not a realistic target. The cost of Upton will likely be too high in terms of prospects-- and frankly, I'm a little wary of an offensively needy team looking to trade a 25 year old 5 tool outfielder, especially one with a team friendly contract who has already experienced great success in the majors. Color me a little skeptical here. It either means the price is going to be prohibitive or there's something the D'Backs are not telling everyone.
So if I'm Theo, I kick the tires on someone like Pagan and get a feel for the market. If the price gets too high, I'd turn to the D'Backs and see if I can pry one of their two stellar defensive outfielders in Chris Young or Gerardo Parra, with a preference toward Young because of his power.
Filed under: 2013 Offseason Series