The Cubs have been busy this off season, taking a refreshing stance on how to solve their obvious pitching and out fielding issues.
The recently signed Scott Hairston joins the squad adding some much needed right handed power to the lineup and offers a convenient platoon style option to right field along with Nate Schierholtz, who is a new Cub as well. The current Assumption is that David DeJesus will play out the final year of his contract in center field, while veteran Alfonso Soriano mans left.
Great! The Cubs have gone from what was a weak starting outfield to a more respectable showing in just a single off season right? While this remains true, there are a few more factors that makes this situation very interesting.
The thought has risen: could these new signings be choking out the potential for some of the Cubs’ top out fielding prospects to shine through? Both Brett Jackson and Dave Sappelt come to mind when considering the future of the Cubs outfield. Not to mention what we’d consider the “second crop” of OF prospects like Jorge Soler, Matt Szczur and Darien Martin.
Both Schierholtz and Hairston allow the Cubs to have some leeway in how they select their starting outfielders, but it is a short term solution at best. They likely wont be a part of the World Series winning team, but will allow the Cubs to keep from being basement dwellers in the standings. Still, they are indeed blocking spots for guys like Jackson and Sappelt, who are reasonably close to being major league ready in 2013.
It’s a question of being competitive now vs allowing your potential future getting some playing time.
This trend continues even further with the newest set of rumors linking the Cubs to OF Michael Bourn. The free agent has apparently been contacted by the Cubs and would technically be “filling” another spot (should he be signed.) Experience at the major league level is key for these young prospects, and Bourn would not go for cheap.
The value seems lost to the Cubs.
Personally, I don’t see the Cubs signing Bourn this off season, but have made contact with him in order to establish market rate for remaining free agent out fielders. It’s a bit of a crack pot theory but can be justified as another ploy to help inflate Soriano’s value even further (as just saying “Hey! He’s still good!” hasn’t really worked.) Theo and his crew are tricky, so this sort of backhanded idea isn’t outside of their comfort level.
You may be wondering why there is no mention of Tony Campana in this discussion. While some writers, including Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune, have theorized that Campana could platoon this season, his overall contact issues and lack of power at the plate ensure his stay in the minor leagues. Sorry fans… I’d love to see his speed again too, but it’s just not happening.
There are many solutions to this problem, but only time will reveal which the front office selects. Knowing their past decisions, you can take solace in knowing that the decision will be made with the future of the franchise taking precedence.