The Chicago Cubs non-tendered four players on Wednesday, including homegrown prospects Albert Almora Jr. and Kyle Schwarber. All of a sudden the Cubs have a major hole to fill in the outfield, as the current depth chart has Kris Bryant as the starting left fielder for 2021.
But hey, the Cubs have to sign someone to replace Schwarber, right?
And I know, I’ve been down in the dumps talking about the Cubs and free agency ever since the winter of 2018, but we don’t know yet exactly what direction the Cubs are heading this offseason. I won’t lie though, it does look bad right now considering before 2020, Schwarber had a career 115 wRC+ and could put up 30+ home runs every season and the Cubs just cut him loose because $9 million was too much money for them.
But again, staying positive here and I’ll be under the assumption that the Cubs will try to reallocate that money and actually sign someone good. Also, the DH has to stick in the National League. Absolute BS if it doesn’t, but for some reason MLB still hasn’t agreed to it. All the players want it. Get it done already because it’ll make the free agent market much clearer for teams and the players.
So, here are three free agents the Cubs should consider signing.
Jackie Bradley Jr.
A center fielder? Huh? Again, I’m praying that the Cubs are actually going to spend some money and not just pocket the savings of the players they cut. So, at a projected two-year, $16 million contract, Bradley *should* be affordable for the Cubs.
But back to the whole center fielder thing. While Ian Happ has done a good job of improving his skills in center, you could still pine for someone better to patrol the biggest part of the park. Bradley could provide that good defensive figure in center field and then guess what? The Cubs could move Happ over to left field, where he should be even better defensively.
Your early take on the Cubs new outfield situation is that they should target a true center fielder, and move Ian Happ to left, where I suspect he could be excellent defensively. He's fine in CF, but you could really overall improve things with the right CF addition.
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) December 3, 2020
So, by signing Bradley the Cubs would automatically improve their outfield defense, but what about the offense? I know that when I put out a poll question about who the Cubs should sign there was at least one suggestion that Bradley could be a good leadoff man.
I know Bradley is coming off a good season, as he slashed .283/.364/.450, with seven home runs, 22 RBIs and 32 runs scored with an awful Boston Red Sox team, but we’re also talking about a guy with a career .321 OBP. Since becoming a full-time player in 2015, Bradley only has two seasons with an OBP above .330 besides the shortened 2020 campaign.
However, Bradley does have some pop, smashing about 20 home runs per season between 2016-19 and would have topped that mark if this past season was normal, too.
So, you’d get a superior defensive center fielder and cover some of the slugging lost from Schwarber in the lineup.
You know, if the Cubs really do want to switch things up on offense and go with a guy who doesn’t necessarily walk but does make plenty of contact while also providing some power, then look no further than Eddie Rosario.
The Twins parted ways with the outfielder on Wednesday and he’s going to be a target for a lot of teams. Anyway, we’ve been hearing the Cubs talk about how they want more contact guys, so let’s do a quick comparison between Rosario and Schwarber.
Z-contact % (contact rate on balls in strike zone)
Contact % (contact rate on all pitches)
And yeah, making contact just to make contact doesn’t always lead to positive results, but Rosario is a .277 career hitter while also slugging .478 since making his MLB debut in 2015. During the same time period, Schwarber has hit .230 and slugged .480.
So, pretty similar power numbers, but while Schwarber draws more walks, Rosario gets more hits. He’d be a great addition to mix things up in the Cubs lineup, but I can’t really tell what Rosario’s market will be. It can’t be super expensive though and should, emphasizing should, be in the Cubs’ price range if they’re actually trying to win in 2021.
I kinda glossed over the power numbers, but from 2017-19, Schwarber hit 94 home runs, while Rosario hit 83. Yeah, Schwarber hits for more power and walks, but Rosario can also put up 25+ homers a season and provide a much higher batting average. The Cubs have desperately needed that these past few years, as they already have other guys who can get on base. Just need to find a few more who can actually drive them in.
No one has a clue why the Colorado Rockies decided to non-tender outfielder David Dahl, but I guess they took his 99 plate appearance sample size in 2020 and said he’s not good anymore. And the same way that I don’t buy Bradley’s 2020 season, thinking he’ll be that type of hitter going forward, I’m also not going to suddenly believe that Dahl is 90% worse than the average MLB hitter from now on out.
I mean, just one year ago in 2019, Dahl slashed .302/.353/.524, with 15 home runs in 100 games. In 2018, he slugged .534 and hit 16 home runs in 77 games.
But there has to be something there besides his awful 2020 that made the Rockies move on. And unfortunately, it’s simply been injuries that have hurt Dahl’s career. After making his MLB debut in 2016, and posting an .859 OPS in 63 games, Dahl missed all of 2017, first because of a rib fracture in spring training and then back spasms later in the summer, when the Rockies ultimately decided to shut him down.
In 2018, Dahl missed two months because of a broken foot and in 2019 he was sidelined the final couple months of the year with an ankle injury. This past season didn’t get much better health wise, as Dahl only played in 24 of the 60 games, missing time and still recovering from a shoulder issue.
However, for all those reasons, he’s actually an ideal target for the Cubs. Couple the bad 2020 numbers and injuries, and the Cubs can get Dahl for cheap. It also helps out that Dahl still has three more years of team control before he becomes a free agent.
Dahl isn’t that much more of an improvement on defense over Schwarber, but he is far more versatile, making 117 starts in left, 63 in center and 44 in right.
So, out of those three, who would you prefer? Or just work out an extension with Schwarber?
Cubs fans, which signing would you prefer
— Aldo Soto (@AldoSoto21) December 3, 2020