With the youngest team in the big leagues, Theo Epstein’s Chicago Cubs are reportedly seeking veteran leadership ahead of the 2015 season – and with good reason.
The clubhouse leaders – Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo – just 24 and 25, respectively, have never been part of a legitimate contender. As the Cubs’ rebuilding effort draws to a close in the next 12-24 months, these two franchise cornerstones will not only be expected to produce on the field, but also teach the team’s rookies how to win – despite never having done so themselves.
According to Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago, one potential target of Epstein and Cubs’ GM Jed Hoyer could be Oakland Athletics outfielder Jonny Gomes, who will be a free agent at the conclusion of the postseason.
"He checks the boxes for leadership and playoff experience, having been to the postseason four of the past five years playing for three teams, including the A’s in 2012 and 2014. He’s exactly the type of player the Cubs’ front office is undoubtedly looking for."
Last season, which Gomes spent with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland, following a midseason trade, was a typical year at the dish for the 33-year-old outfielder. He batted .232/.327/.330 in 112 games, adding six home runs and driving in 37 runs. Although his offensive numbers certainly do not leap off the page, his role with the 2013 Red Sox is well-documented. The veteran journeyman was known for his positive, motivating contributions to the Boston clubhouse as the team made a historic run to yet-another World Series title – exactly the type of experience lacking in the Chicago clubhouse.
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With the likes of Arismendy Alcantara, Jorge Soler, Chris Coghlan seemingly set to return to the team with significant time in manager Ricky Renteria’s lineup next year, playing time for someone like Gomes would be limited. However, the former 18th-round draft pick is used to working in platoon situations, having not appeared in more than 115 games since back in 2011. Even when out of the lineup, he would likely be expected to work with the team’s younger players – again, something Epstein and Hoyer have emphasized since their arrival in the Windy City.
Rogers lists the Detroit Tigers’ Torii Hunter as another potential option for the Chicago front office, but given he is already 39, it stands to reason that he would rather spend his final seasons with a contender – which, although the Cubs have expectations to be vastly improved in 2015 – is hardly a certainty moving forward.
Gomes fits what the Cubs are looking for – a Nate Schierholtz-type player who comes in, does his work and motivates the players around him day-in and day-out. Whether or not he’d return Chicago’s interest in the months to come, however, remains to be seen.