The Chicago Cubs continued to make internal roster moves, finalizing Chris Denorfia‘s one-year, $2.6 million deal, and in-turn designating Mike Kickham for assignment. Kickham was picked up off of waivers just before Christmas from the San Francisco Giants.
With so many questions in the Cubs outfield, Denorfia’s ability to play all three outfield spots will loom large for Joe Maddon and his managing approach. Chris Coghlan is expected to split time with him in left field, but Coghlan was actually the most consistent of the remaining outfielders last season. Arismendy Alcantara is still adjusting to the Major League level, as well as learning the outfield still as he was a second baseman prior. And Jorge Soler made a fine impression in his short audition, but whether he can carry that over 162 games is yet to be seen.
Denorfia is a career .272 hitter, but has had better success against lefties, posting a .358 on-base percentage, which is why most figure him to be a solid complement to Coghlan in left. Jed Hoyer is familiar with Denorfia from his time in San Diego, finally having a breakout season with the Padres in 2010. After being traded to Seattle last season, he struggled in the American League, hitting only .195 in 32 games.
There was much talk that Mike Kickham could be a “sleeper” pickup of the off-season for the Cubs, but making the necessary moves across the 40-man roster forced him to be DFA’d. While the former highly-regarded Giants prospect has struggled, he is likely to be claimed off waivers by a team with an open spot on their roster willing to give him a chance.
Even while the depth of pitching throughout the organization is relatively thin, having a solid back-up plan at the Major League level for one of the many questions that could test the Cubs outfield became the top priority.