The Cubs went into the offseason with 4 slots to fill: 2 SPs, 1 3B, and 1 CF/OF
So far they have filled one of the SP slots and the Cubs priority is to pick up another SP and maybe even a 3rd arm, especially a versatile one. Next on the list is a CF, and then a 3B. We'll cover CF today and 3B tomorrow.
But as much as Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer would like to pick up a player at each of those positions, it simply may not be possible. Because OF, especially CF, is the better market this year, the Cubs may prioritize that position, with the goal of landing one off the free agents or a player off the non-tender market.
There are some good FAs available in CF such as Michael Bourn, Josh Hamilton, Shane Victorino and BJ Upton -- but, barring something completely unexpected, none of them are coming to Chicago.
There is also a trade market where top CFs Curtis Granderson and Dexter Fowler are rumored to be available. Rival executives, however, are saying that the asking price (which is said to be starting pitching) for Fowler is "absurd" and it isn't likely to be any easier to land Granderson. It's highly questionable whether the Diamondbacks plan to make stellar defender Gerald Parra available. The trade of Chris Young may have opened an opportunity for him there. Denard Span may be on the trade market as well, though with the Twins also seeking pitching, the Cubs will have a tough time outbidding contenders with rotation depth. It's also entirely possible that none of these players get traded when all is said and done. None of those teams are under the gun to trade those players, so my guess is that they won't be cheap.
As it stands now, the Cubs can either play David DeJesus in CF, where he's a little short defensively, or platoon Tony Campana and Dave Sappelt. The Cubs also brought in Brian Bogusevic, a LH hitter who can play all 3 OF spots. He may be in the mix as well.
So what's the plan in CF?
Plan A: Trade for Coco Crisp. The trade of Young from the D'Backs to the A's may have hurt the Cubs chance to land Parra, but it may give them an opportunity with veteran Coco Crisp. Crisp is an excellent defender who switch-hits, able to contribute from both sides, though historically he has hit for more power as a RH hitter. Crisp is in the 2nd year of a 2 year contract (there is also a team opton for 2014). The deal for 2013 is $7M plus another $1M to buy him out, essentially making the 2013 contract value $8M That's pretty expensive for a 4th OF'er, especially in a small market like Oakland. The Cubs showed interest in Crisp last year until Oakland swooped in with their unexpectedly large contract offer.
Playing Crisp everyday will allow the Cubs to keep David DeJesus in RF, where he is much better defensively, and possibly platoon him with Dave Sappelt. DeJesus hit a very respectable .289/.364/.413 vs. RHP but hit just .149 with no extra base hits against lefties. I really like DeJesus, but he needs to be a platoon player at this stage of his career. Sappelt hit lefties well at AAA Iowa then hit .440 against them in a short sample size in the majors.
Plan B: The Cubs could turn to someone like Franklin Gutierrez. Seattle is rumored to be open to trading him. He has never been a great offensive player but he hits lefties pretty well, batting .293/.346/.479 against them in his career. Gutierrez has been injured often and perhaps the Cubs can keep him healthy playing him part time, perhaps spelling him with David DeJesus or Bryan Bogusevic on occasion in CF vs. RHP. It's uncertain as to what the Cubs could offer in return. Seattle always seems to be searching for offense, but the Cubs really only have Alfonso Soriano available and, even if they wanted to, trading him to a non-contender could prove problematic with his NTC.
If the Cubs can't get either of these players, there is the secondary free agent market. It gets pretty dicey here. There is Nyjer Morgan, who is a great defender and has some OBP skills. He can be very inconsistent, however, and his personality rubs some the wrong way. The Cubs could take another look at Grady Sizemore and see if he's healthy enough to play CF. The Cubs do offer some opportunity for players looking to regain market value. Scott Hairston is coming 0ff a 20 HR season and is adequate in the OF, but it seems likely he'd re-sign with the Mets. Ryan Spillborgs hasn't had a solid year since 2010 but is .273/.356/ .443 vs. LHP in his career and could platoon either in CF or RF, though he is not a great defender at either of those positions.
If the Cubs ultimately are unable to make a move, it may come down to a CF platoon of Bogusevic and Sappelt. Both players are best suited for the corners defensively but can play CF. Sappelt hits lefties well and Bogusevic has a career OBP of .323 vs. RHP while slugging .370. He did hit .298/.353/.457 vs. RHP in 167 PAs in 2011.
The good news is that it is a saturated market for CFers and it's possible that a pretty good player can slip to the Cubs late in the offseason if they are patient. In the end, I think landing Crisp is the most likely best case scenario for the Cubs. That would then set up a DeJesus/Sappelt platoon in RF and allow Bogusevic and Campana to fight for that 5th OF spot.
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