Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Cubs Finally Sign Left-Handed Hitter They’ve Been Obsessed With


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For some reason Jed Hoyer and this current Cubs front office really loves left-handed hitter Dominic Smith because after obsessing over him for the past two years they finally signed him. According to Robert Murray, Smith and the Cubs have agreed to terms on a minor league deal that could end up with the 28-year-old earning as much as $3.5 million.

Smith, who played in a career high 153 games in 2023 with the Washington Nationals, did have surgery on his hand in January, so his availability will be in question until the end of spring training according to Murray.

That’s where this signing becomes interesting because unlike the minor league signing of veteran outfielder and fellow left-handed hitter David Peralta, the addition of Smith kinda seems like the Cubs are planning to keep him for a bit even if that means Smith begins the year in Triple-A. Like Peralta, the Cubs are primarily viewing Smith as a left-handed bench bat, who could fill in at DH and in Smith’s case backup first base.

The Cubs have been linked to Smith since the 2022 trade deadline, when Smith was still with the New York Mets. Then, last offseason, Smith was once again on the Cubs’ radar when they were searching for another lefty bat after signing Dansby Swanson and Cody Bellinger. The Cubs ended up going with Eric Hosmer and Trey Mancini to cover first base, while Smith landed with the Nationals.

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It wasn’t a great year for Smith in Washington, but he was a lot better than the Hosmer/Mancini duo the Cubs signed. Smith slashed .254/.326/.366, with 12 home runs in 586 plate appearances, resulting in a 90 wRC+. Smith also had positive results on defense at first base, with 5 defense runs saved and 1 Out Above Average.

Seeing that Smith’s deal with the Cubs has incentives that can reach up to $3.5 million, it leads me to believe that he at least got the impression that he will get a good shot to eventually be on the major league team. However, it is minor league deal and Smith can opt out at any time if he’s not with the Cubs early in the regular season to seek out another MLB opportunity.

I’m obviously not crazy about this move if Smith ends up being that other lefty bat for the bench and backup DH option. But maybe the Cubs as a whole, maybe one of the hitting coaches, believes they can bring back the old Smith, who had a few outstanding seasons with the Mets.

Maybe they can unlock that again because back in 2019, he had a 134 wRC+ with a slash line of .282/.355/.525, blasting 11 home runs in 197 plate appearances and then followed it up with 10 home runs in 199 plate appearances during the shortened 2020 season. But again, that power just has not been there from Smith for the last three years.

There’s gotta be a reason the Cubs have been obsessed with Smith since 2022. We’ll see if Smith does earn a job out of spring training and out of him and Peralta, I do think Smith has a better chance at it despite the unknown of his surgery rehab.

If Smith does make the team we can only hope as Cubs fans that he does better than Jonathan Villar, Hosmer and Mancini among other bench players Hoyer has signed during the past few years.

Lastly, I gotta say, no this doesn’t mean the Cubs are out on Cody Bellinger. Peralta or Smith are simply left-handed bench options and if anyone should be worried about keeping a job with the Cubs it’s probably Matt Mervis.

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