Theo Epstein has made it known the Chicago Cubs will be looking for talent outside of the organization this winter. While he hasn’t specified what positions the Cubs will look to fill, pitching is a fairly obvious one. The outfield is likely another. So with the Baltimore Orioles likely to decline Nick Markakis‘ option, could the Cubs look to sign him?
While there is plenty of depth in the outfield for the Cubs, there is also a lack of experience. Ryan Sweeney has the most of the outfielders the team finished the season with. Sweeney has spent nine years in the league, but only seven as a full-time player, and not with eye-popping numbers (2014: 77 G, .251 AVG, 3 HR, 21 RBIs). Also, his hamstring issue is an area of concern.
Chris Coghlan (2014: 125 G, .283 AVG, 9 HR, 41 RBI) had a breakout second-half, and has likely earned one of the outfield spots for next season. Coghlan, a former Rookie of the Year winner, has overcome injuries to produce more like the player he was in Miami. But it’s still a small sample, and he needs to do it over time.
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The rest of the candidates are young, raw talent. Jorge Soler (57 G, .292, 5 HR, 20 RBIs), Arismendy Alcantara (70 G, .205, 10 HR, 29 RBIs), and Junior Lake (2014: 108 G, .211 AVG, 9 HR, 25 RBIs) all will have the opportunity, but have yet to prove themselves over the course of a full season. Lake showed some of his capability last year, but it didn’t carry over to this year. Alcantara and Soler are just getting their feet wet, and the possibility of what happened with Lake happening to them is a realistic concern.
So yes, there is plenty of talent, and upside in the group of outfielders the Cubs have. But they need a veteran to help anchor, and lead these young players. Nick Markakis may be a perfect fit for the Cubs in that regard.
Markakis isn’t being unloaded or let go by choice, or due to poor numbers. Well, numbers are an issue–a $17.5 dollar mutual option–is making the choice for the Orioles a bit easier. Markakis is well-liked within the organization, and the hope is that he can be resigned at a better rate during free agency. But a player with his experience and consistency will draw plenty of suitors.
His career averages over nine seasons are a sign of a player who knows his job, and does it everyday:
The pessimistic side of this equation is that not all of these players, especially the rookies, will flourish next season. If it was to happen, more power to the Cubs. But it is in their best interest to sign a player, like Markakis, to a short-term deal while the young Cubs gain experience. That way when the slumps come, and they will, the Cubs will have a solid veteran option to turn to. As much as I’d love to bet the house on all the prospects that have come up having breakout years in 2015, I’d be insane to do that.
Again, this will all be a matter of dollars. And Markakis may not have any desire to leave Baltimore, but re-sign, and look to finish what will likely be unfinished business after this year’s ALCS comes to a close.