Much of the Cubs’ success has come from the ability for several of their players to move all over the diamond at a moment’s notice. Kris Bryant, Ben Zobrist, Javy Baez, Jason Heyward, and Willson Contreras have all started in or shifted to various positions this season. Bryant played three different positions in the game in which he hit three home runs. Joe Maddon has even deployed relief pitchers to left field.
The trouble, though, is that much of Maddon’s ingenious player movement has been born of necessity. Starting left field Kyle Schwarber was lost for the season only three games in and was replaced on an everyday basis by Jorge Soler, who has been out for an extended period with a hamstring injury. Dexter Fowler also came up lame and spent about a month on the shelf with his own hammy issues.
Matt Szczur, pressed into more regular duty by those injuries, fell prey to a hamstring issue and was forced to the DL for a while. The situation in the outfield got so dire that the Cubs had to go out and reacquire Chris Coghlan from the Athletics. And guess what happened to him? It wasn’t a leg issue in Cogs’ case, but a rib cage injury put him out of action in early July.
Fowler and Szczur have since returned and both Soler and Coghlan are rehabbing with AA Tennessee. So that means they should be stacked in the outfield once August rolls around, right? Well, yeah, but if the recent moves to acquire Mike Montgomery and Aroldis Chapman have taught us anything, it’s that this front office is perfectly willing to overstock the shelves in preparation for October. And that they like lefties. And that they’re okay with some PR issues.
They could check two of those boxes by going after one of the three names that seem to be percolating to the top of the free agent outfield rumor mill these days. Jay Bruce and Carlos Gonzalez present attractive options, but it’s Josh Reddick to whom the Cubs have been most strongly linked to this point. Bruce and CarGo offer a great deal more power and sex appeal than Reddick, though neither really fits the mold of the players the Cubs typically covet.
Neither walks very frequently, both strike out at around a 21% clip, and their respective contact rates aren’t anything to write home about. Reddick, on the other hand, walks at nearly an 11% rate while he strikes out in less than 13% of his plate appearances. He also makes contact at a significantly higher rate than his counterparts in this example. In addition, Reddick is a lot cheaper from a contract standpoint and will be a free agent at the end of the season, which should mean there’s a lower acquisition cost as well.
You don’t go out and get a guy like CarGo to sit on the bench and fill in from time to time, especially not when you’d be paying him $20 million next season. Same for Bruce, though my understanding is that he’s only owed a $1 million buyout if a $13 million team option for 2017 isn’t exercised. Any of these players could provide a boost down the stretch, but future production and value would be mitigated by Schwarber coming back and Heyward rebounding after untucking his hands and fixing his swing in the offseason.
Even with little more than a cursory once-over of these potential moves, Reddick seems to make a lot more sense than either Bruce or Gonzalez. Of course, adding any of them would require parting with one of the current members of the active roster. Easy enough on the surface. Until you realize that the most likely casualty of adding a lefty outfield bat would be Coghlan, who’s on the DL. Then you realize that Soler, too, will require a roster spot when he’s ready to return.
The Cubs are carrying 13 pitchers at the moment, so one of them could be moved. But who? Justin Grimm? Joe Nathan? Oh wait, Trevor Cahill is on the DL as well, which means they’ll need to find another spot.
As I’m sure you’ve deduced by now, adding Reddick — or any bat, for that matter — at this point means parting ways with at least one member of the active roster. I really have no idea what the A’s would look for in return, but I’m guessing cost-controlled talent with upside would be high on the list. In other words, I don’t think a 41-year-old former closer would fit the bill. And given the recent focus on strengthening the pen, there’s no way any of the high-leverage back-end guys are in play.
Grimm could be a possibility, given his relative underperformance and the fact that he’s looking really expendable these days. But now I’m venturing dangerously close to the demilitarized zone of trade proposals, which makes me really uncomfortable. I must say, however, that I am very curious as to what an outfield addition would mean for the futures of Szczur and Soler. Maybe they could just trade Soler straight up for Reddick and DFA Szczur (ducks to avoid the rotten fruits and vegetables).
Someone is going to be trimmed from the roster, though, and making Reddick a part of the outfield rotation means that his production is an incremental improvement over the player whose innings he’s eating into (cue the comments about how bad Heyward has been). And bear in mind that this is a guy who hasn’t played left field since 2011 and has only logged 11 innings in center since 2012 (the cries from the anti-Heyward crowd grow in volume). Not that that’d stop Maddon from moving him around.
As I stated earlier, Reddick is the only one of the (reportedly) available players listed here who makes much sense to me. Even so, I would only make such a move if the price was low. Maybe not bidding $1 on the Showcase Showdown low, just not something splashy. When you get down to it, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are going to do what they feel is best for the Cubs and I don’t think they’re listening to my thoughts on potential deals.
I’m sure they’re listening to yours though, so let’s hear what you think about Reddick and/or other options.