The Chicago Cubs need to fill some key roster spots this off-season. More specifically, they have no depth in the outfield. They lost five notable outfielders since the end of the season. Chicago will have plenty of options in the free agency market to meet these needs. Here are some players that they may look to acquire.
Long-time New York Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner is an unrestricted free agent. While the Yankees have expressed that they would like to have him back, contract negotiations between both sides seem to be at a stand still. Gardner is 37 years-old, but he is still a very serviceable player. The Cubs absolutely need to find a few outfielders, whether that be through free agency or their farm system. He could be a player that they inquire about as the off-season continues.
Currently, Chicago only has two outfielders on the roster: Jason Heyward and Ian Happ. Adding Gardner would help fill some voids, and provide some veteran leadership, from a guy who is used to winning. Like most players, his production has declined with age. He had a slash line of .223/.354/.392 in 2020. He would likely sign a team-friendly deal. In all likelihood, Gardner will eventually re-sign with New York, but this is becoming more of an uncertainty as time goes on. The left-handed contact-hitter would be a solid pick-up to add some depth in Chicago.
Sticking with a similar theme, let’s look at another left-handed outfielder. Joc Pederson would be a reasonable placement for Kyle Schwarber in left field. He can hit for power against right-handers and may be available as a slightly cheaper alternative. In addition to that, he is a much better defender. Pederson is not as good against lefties, but once again he offers some much-needed depth.
Pederson struggled this past season, only batting .190. Statistically, it was overall the worst season of his career. Chicago shouldn’t expect him to be an upgrade over Schwarber, however, he could prove to be a quality bat. He won’t be an everyday starter, but he does have a high upside, and gives the team a strong option against right-handed pitchers. Let’s not forget that he was an All-Star at age 23, Pederson will draw attention from several teams. The Cubs should be one of them because he will be well within their price range.
Jackie Bradley Jr.
Jackie Bradley Jr. may be the most intriguing name linked with Chicago. Jon Morosi has reported that the team has a strong interest in the outfielder. He makes the most sense for the Cubs because he is coming off a good season. Bradley Jr. batted .283/.364/.450 in the shortened season. That was a career-high in each category. Chicago could acquire him with certainty that he can produce, when compared to some other candidates.
Free agent Jackie Bradley Jr. is drawing interest from the Phillies, Cubs, and Blue Jays, among other teams, as I mentioned this morning on @MLBNetwork. Bradley, 30, is coming off a season in which he posted a 118 OPS+, his best since 2016. @MLB
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 15, 2020
He is a gold glover, which means they would improve their defense in the outfield significantly. Ian Happ could slide over to left field with Bradley Jr. taking over in center. Add in Heyward, and that is a reliable trio in the outfield. Chicago shouldn’t hesitate to pursue Bradley Jr., especially since they should emphasize on finding lefty contact hitters. They have been overpowered by right handed pitching at times, and certainly struggled hitting for contact last season.
Now for a player who is known for his spectacular plays in the outfield: Kevin Pillar. He is a walking highlight reel in center field. He was dealt to the Colorado Rockies at the trade deadline, and put up some impressive numbers. As a member of the Rockies, his slash line was .308/.351/.451. He has been bouncing around the league, after spending his first seven seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Although Pillar isn’t a left-handed batter, he would still be a welcome sight in Wrigley Field. He is known for his incredible web gems, and Chicago could use someone who consistently hustles in the outfield. The basket featured above the ivy will probably prevent him from robbing more home runs, but he can be much more than an impressive defender. He would be featured late in the lineup, and would be an improvement from Albert Almora. Expect for Pillar to sign to yet another one-year deal, no matter what team he latches onto.
Finally, the Cubs could make a run at Eddie Rosario. He has been a mainstay in the Minnesota Twins‘ lineup for the past six seasons. It was somewhat surprising seeing them non-tender him. One reason for that being his rising salary, which would have exceeded $10 million. They also have some younger prospects that could replace him. He won’t be demanding crazy money, and likely will have to take less than he deserves because of the current economic climate in the MLB.
As mentioned multiple times above, the Cubs should be looking for batters who can hit from the left side. Rosario does that effectively. He can hit for power and contact, and keeps his strikeouts relatively low. In 2019, Rosario managed to knock in 109 runs, which led the Twins. One drawback would be his defense. He isn’t much of an improvement to Schwarber in that department. Adding him to the team would be more of an offensive move, which makes sense because the Cubs have been very inconsistent at the plate. He could bat clean-up, but would cost the team more than most of the aforementioned names. Contrary to that, he would be the most impactful player as well. Either way, there’s no doubt that he is at least worth some consideration.
Embed from Getty Images