Cubs may need to get creative to fill CF void

Cubs may need to get creative to fill CF void
Coco Crisp could be Cubs answer in CF

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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  • What do you think it'll take to get Crisp?

  • In reply to Ben20:

    I'm hoping maybe salary relief, he gets paid way too much for a 4th OF and Oakland can't afford luxuries like that, and something like a bullpen arm. But it depends on the demand.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If that is the price, the Cubs would be nuts not to make that trade.

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    Agreed. I just hope it comes down to something like that.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    Probably staying in the deep fryer to long.

  • Last year if i remember correctly when Sappelt was up late in the season DeJesus was getting the action in centerfield. Implying DeJesus was a better defender in center. It seems to me that if they were to be looking for only center fielders that they may be looking at the situation wrong. They could look to corner outfielder options since if they cannot find the right center fielder, that DeJesus would be the best defensive option in center. Therefore they could find an adequate defender in right that may offer a little more offense compared to a Sappelt/Bogusevic option.
    What do you think?

  • In reply to WillW:

    That could well be. It may have to play out in spring training but DeJesus showed a lot of diminished range out there. Sappelt actually showed better range in RF than DeJesus did. They stuck with it, but I don't think they want to go a whole season with him there. All of those OF'ers are much better in the corners, so I really do think they need to pick up a true CF'er one way or the other. No matter who plays there it probably isn't going to be good enough defensively. Maybe you do just stick DeJesus there and at least have a good defensive RF option with Sappelt/Bogusevic.

  • I'd rather buy a cf than trade one of our few assets. We need to build value, not trade it away.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    I don't think it would cost much to get Crisp. They need salary relief there. The only way it gets expensive is if there's a bidding war for him.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Agreed SFToby. The assets are fairly thin - especially the quality pitching I would rather see them hire a warm body for a year or two with a tradable contract, or see them go with a DeJesus / Sappelt / Campana combination rotating through CF.

  • To me, Parra and Spann are the most interesting. But what would they cost?

  • In reply to Bucky:

    AZ wants a MLB SS. Twins want young SP. Both tough matches for the Cubs

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    John, I think you alluded to a key factor in any FA signings: Given that the Cubs do not figure to contend next year, why would anyone come here?

    The best reason, other than money, is playing time, and I think that's a key reason Scott Baker signed here, because he knows he will get as many starts as he is capable of making

    Same with a CF; to me, a guy like Nyjer Morgan or other FA that may be a part-time player elsewhere could get a chance here to make some starts

    But trading young assets, or spending too much, is a mistake, since we have some possibilities coming up through the system (B-Jax, Szczur, and looking further, Almora). Almora in particular figures to stick in CF defensively, though he's 3-4 years out

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I agree that the Cubs shouldn't trade anyone good. I also don't think anyof the top FAs will come to Chicago because they can start anywhere. A guy like Morgan is certainly possible if the Cubs are ok with his mental makeup.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I think a trade for Crisp works if he doesnt cost much more than salary relief. If Bjax looks ready midseason, Crisp has a tradeable contract if need be or can move to LF if Cubs can trade Sori.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    What about other teams looking for CF? I would think that they would be all over Oakland for Crisp as well since he represents pretty good value. If we do land him, why not move Bjax to RF and DeJesus to LF (assuming Sori is traded)? I think this would give the best defensive alignment with speed and arm strength/accuracy. It is the holiday season so we are allowed to hope.

  • I agree with you, SFToby. No trades, not for CF. We're still rebuilding and, not surprisingly, I don't see us contending this year for the playoffs. I would assume B Jax is coming up mid season to either sink or swim. Unless Oakland is looking for a salary dump with Crisp, whom we could flip at the deadline, I say no thanks.

  • I don't like any of the above options (FAs). Let's just keep building.

  • In reply to GoCubs:

    I don't know how throwing Campana out there or something helps you build. Nothing wrong with getting a low cost, short term CF that won't tie you up later as far as roster or finances. Re-bulding doesn't mean you have to throw a non-competitive team out there.

  • The Cubs already have a guy with a plus-plus tool.
    That guy is Tony Campana. Just play him until BJax is ready.
    If BJax doesn't make it, then worry about an upgrade.

    The rest of these guys are either mediocre or expensive.

  • In reply to eaton53:

    Speed isnt enough if you cant get on base or use it to play great defense. Campana needs to show vast improvement to be seriously considered.

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    In reply to eaton53:

    Campana, as John pointed out, doesn't hit enough. He also is not a particularly good defender, with a rag arm. He strikes out way too much for a guy with no power.

    He's a one-trick pony

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    I wouldn't trade any future pieces for Crisp,as he's going to cost young pitching in return,,unless you're talking a guy like Casey Coleman.who would likely be available.To facilitate that deal there's always another guy like Campana or add to the deal.

  • In reply to Loren Ronzheimer:

    I wouldnt either. But with a big contract and a buyers market, I dont think he will.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    If am Billy Beane, I think I can contend next year, which means I need something more useful back for Crisp than a good 4th OF, which is the role he would play for the A's.

    That means I either need to a) get a ML player back, or b) be able to spend that $7.5 mil on a FA that will contribute more than Crisp

    That may mean signing a bullpen arm, but I wonder if Beane is going to ask too much for Crisp, i.e. a ML-ready ballplayer. Of the players on our roster, I don't see a match for Crisp, other than maybe Marmol, and even then we probably have to send money back to A's in addition to taking on Crisps's contract.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    If he asks too much you walk away, but I'm not sure he's likely to want to get stuck with what amounts to a $8M investment for a 4th OF'er on a small market team. It's also a buyers market for CF'ers, he won't be able to ask for a ton, teams will just go elsewhere. I don't know. We'll see. I think if he doesn't cost much in terms of young players, he's the perfect fit. But we'll have to wait and see how much they want for him, I guess.

  • I do not see this FO giving up defense in cf even in a rebuilding year. I think that will go after the best defensively stopgap cf out there.

  • In reply to 44slug:


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    In reply to John Arguello:

    You could be right, in which case that likely means Nyjer Morgan

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    The Cubs are sitting on spendable cash,so use some to grab a needed outfielder,and boy does this outfield need an upgrade. Soriano is playing out the last years of his career and likely won't duplicate his stats from last year, and DeJesus who's better suited for RF but has a bat that fits better in CF. That still means we're short one starting outfielder. The rest of the rostered outfielders are a mix and match lot of underwhelming players.

  • In reply to Loren Ronzheimer:

    Its the years that is the bigger concern. These top guys will get 4 years or more, and will probably want to go to a contender rather than a rebuilding team anyway.

  • John, The cubs aren't going to be in the mix next year and the free agents available wil ho with a contender. Wy not use the season to test out some of our prospects? There's one guy that beat Vogelbach in terms of power this last year - Soler (sp?). Why not see if he can make the jump?
    As for Vogelbach, I agree that third base wouldn't fit him. But he might be a fit in left field ater Soriano is gone.One thing Theo did when he acquired Rizzo was throw off the succession line to first base. If LaHair had been able to adjust to pitchers after they adjusted to him it would have been a perfect lead-in to Vogelbach. I'm not knocking Rizzo but the deal did complicate the picture.

  • In reply to pricewriter:

    Soler just isn't ready to hit MLB pitching. The Cubs didn't even think he was ready for the Fall League, which means hes almost certainly starting the year in A ball.

    I love Vogelbach, but he just doesn't have speed or athleticism to play anywhere but 1B. We don't have to worry about him yet. Let him continue to mash and if he's still doing it at the AA level, then you figure things out from there.

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    My guess is the Cubs aren't going to get anyone, unless they see a core piece available. Even then, with the longer-term future position more settled internally -- Almora, Jackson, Andreoli, in that order -- than third and the starting rotation, they are not going to be inclined to give a lot to settle the need. At the end of the day, I think they'll go to spring training with a bunch of Brian Bogusevic, Tony Campana-type guys, and the best one or two get the job.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Bogusevic is probably their hedge in case they don't get the guy they want at good value, which I believe is Crisp. Easier to walk away if you have a few guys who can play CF.

    I'd put Szczur over Andreoli. Similar players in that they both walk a lot and don't hit for much power, but Andreoli probably not fast enough to play CF everyday. Those 50 SBs more based on instinct and aggressiveness on bases, but he's probably got just over average speed, maybe Reed Johnson-ish at best.

  • Hey John,

    Right now the A's have seven outfielders without Jonny Gomes, should they decide to resign him. Coco Crisp gives you a good defensive center fielder, a switch hitting leadoff man who can still steal some basis, and a good clubhouse guy. I'd even offer to drive him around Chicago so he could avoid a couple of the "issues" he had two years ago.

  • In reply to AZBOB:

    Gomes signed with the Red Sox, btw.

    I like your idea bout driving him around Chicago :) Cubs should put that in his contract.

  • John do you think there's a chance that junior lake jumps AAA, and is the Cubs MLB third baseman in 2013?

  • In reply to Michael25:

    There's always a chance. Cubs don't like doing that but he's been playing very well. More likely he goes to AAA. He's an exciting ballplayer when he's locked in, hope we get to see him sometime in 2013.

  • I think that if the cubs are gonna make a trade it should be for pitching or a 3b. I really enjoyed the idea of the vitters +1 for chisenhall trade concept. As far as cf goes, preferably I want an athletic guy who's a plus defender because with any player there's always a chance that they don't hit, but I'm not willing to let them cost the cubs pitchers runs because those are the guys who will have the most value at the deadline. I would also prefer that we wouldn't make any type of deal until the majority of free agent outfielders are off the table

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    I'll do 3B next and Chisenhall is in there.

  • Seattle needs a closer since they had plenty of blown saves last year, but I'd rather not settle for someone who can hit the sole lefty we're liable to see per series. I'd rather see if we could get someone close to the majors with a good deal more upside. I've got to think there are unsigned free agents with more upside playing in the winter leagues right now.

    I'd also like to decide if we're going to attempt to be competitive, and then overpay and get some good free agents, and if not then play for Rodon. What is "competitive" anyway? At what degree of not sucking too badly do you begin to satisfy fans?

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Gutierrez isnt helpless against RHP, he's not like DeJesus or LaHair are against LHP. I think you can play him everyday with some occasional days off on tough matchups and to keep him healthy.

    To answer your second question, it's hard to say it better than Dave Cameron did,

    If you're whole purpose is to get Rodon (and it's going to be hard to be worse than the Astros or Marlins) that's a big long shot. It's likely you can lose 100 games and still not get him.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks for the link - good read.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, I think you're exactly right on Crisp. This would be a trade that makes a lot of sense for both clubs. In terms of our bullpen arms, the Cubs aren't going to give away a core player, and this trade would allow the team to concentrate this offseason on the other needs. It makes a lot of sense for the A's to be very interested.
    As for Lake, Vogelbach etc I certainly don't want to return to the Hendry days of bringing up players before they're ready. Isn't the way the Cubs handled Rizzo a good indication of how they want to move forward and how they should move forward?

  • In reply to Cuyler:

    That's what I think too. No way do you give a core player or a top prospect for Crisp. Take on the salary and save on the prospect end.

    I think we have to trust the Cubs development system when it comes to promoting guys or switching positions. They have some good people down there evaluating those sort of things.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    The Astros will most likely have a worse record next year after moving to the AL and trading any player they had of value in the second half of 2012 and not replacing their production. And while the Marlins will likely stink too, they always have a wave of talented kids to bring up, unlike the completely barren Houston farm system.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    I'd bet on Houston being worse too.

    I will say that Houston's system is better with the last draft and some trades, but most of those guys are so far down that it will be a while for them. That's a pretty long term plan over there, they could be bad for the next few years.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Yes, they could be really bad for several years.

  • By the way, I think both Felix Pie and Sam Fuld are available.

  • In reply to SFToby:


  • Unless they're trying to get him more AB's at Iowa to get him to slap the ball into the ground more, crazy not to have Campana as at least your 5th outfielder. Such a great tool to have a pinchrunning threat like that in a late close ballgame - assuming the light goes on for Sveum and he starts using him that way.

  • Did everyone forget no matter who we have in CF, the Cubs is still a last place team in their division in 2013. Not only CF is a problem, so is 3B, and pitching.

    Coco Crisp?......Jim Hendry was after him a few years ago.

    Theo & Jed need to look over those scouting reports on the Rule 5 players....if we have the second pick, we should get a player who can contribute more than Castillo did in 2012.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    We've addressed pitching a few times as well as 3B, and I'll address 3B again in the near future.

    Theo acquired Crisp for Boston just a few years ago, so I wouldn't call him a Hendry guy.

    We cannot depend on Rule 5 guys. These guys are fringe bottom of the roster type guys. Some talent there, but it's a long shot especially since they changed the parameters a few years ago.

  • Like the idea of adding Crisp. You can never go wrong with good CF defense. I mean for a small market team like Oakland it doesn't make much sense to keep a 4th OF on a 1yr deal for 8Mil when they can use that money for other needs. I mean if Beane decides he wants to hold the FO over and ask for the moon or for top prospects then it's simple-- we walk. Otherwise I think we can work a deal. For hopefully salary relief a low-level prospect.

    IMO --which is of the mindset that BJax will be ready by midseason -- it doesn't make much sense to go after one of the long-term guys unless we think BJax won't ever be able to contribute or we can deal Soriano/DeJesus. Also I don't think adding one of those guys makes us competitive, in reality we're still quite a few pieces away. I think we can surprise, with a good defense and good pitching performances and a semblance of a bullpen, though not at the level of the A's or Orioles.

  • fb_avatar

    I might get bashed for this but based on the options available id honestly rather just go with Brett Jackson in Cf with a dejesus/sappelt playroom in right. He's said to have worked on his swing all off-season but even if he does need work why not let him do it at the big league level?

    Unlike Vitters for example you can afford to let Bjax develop and play here because he will always give you power, speed, and defense even if some other things need fine tuning.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I agree with that concept a bit. Bjax did help us win some games last year--the defense makes him much more ready for learning at the ML level

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I agree that If you start him, he can help you without hitting for average. At the same time, I understand what the Cubs are doiong. I'd like to give him a chance to develop with his adjustments in a league that won't overwhelm him. I think it's hard enough to change your swing. It's even harder when you are doing it against MLB pitching.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree with this 100%. that extra development time could mean the difference between Bjax being a solid regular or an above average player/occasional all-star. But the fact that his floor is among the highest of our upper level prospects I think he can contribute now And still get better.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I agree with you Marcel. I'd rather just go wits bjax than any player named. I don't really understand the coco crisp obsession. I think we have enough no power hitting or run producing outfielders. I only think it makes sense if dejesus isn't starting in right field.

  • John, do you think theo would be the one to talk with beane about crisp since they are close friends ?

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