Was the signing of Denorfia necessary with the outfielders the team already had?
I have nothing against Chris Denorfia as a person or a player. The Chicago Cubs were simply looking to build depth, but also add experience as well. Once they made the trade for Dexter Fowler, I didn’t see a place for Denorfia. Now with the hamstring injury, he’s likely to miss Opening Day. No, you shouldn’t lose your job to injury, but was there ever a job that was actually his?
With the Cubs expected to break camp with Chris Coghlan, Fowler and Jorge Soler as their starting outfield, expect them to have at least one, maybe two more outfielders. Now, this projection can get a little foggy based on Javier Baez–and also Arismendy Alcantara, but we’ll assume Baez is going to make the 25-man roster. Joe Maddon just seems to appreciate defense and hustle too much for him not to.
That would leave Alcantara, as well as Junior Lake, Matt Szczur and Ryan Sweeney to battle for the last two spots. It seems that Alcantara is a “sure thing”, as Maddon loves versatility, and Alcantara has bounced back this spring (.278, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 12 SO).
Maddon speaks highly of all three, as he comes in with a set of “fresh eyes” as he calls it. With Sweeney owed $1.5 million this season–the second of a two-year deal–he seems to be the most likely. He’s also a left-handed bat. But he also has the least impressive spring numbers (.185, 2 2B, 5 SO, 1 BB).
But Szczur (.333, 3 HR, 5 RBI) may fit the mold of “favorite” for Maddon, with his hustle and effort. He’s also shown increased power this spring, but it is Arizona. Even without the power surge, he’s had a spectacular camp and would be worthy of a roster spot.
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Lake (.303, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 11 SO)may fall into the same category as Mike Olt. Each had an opportunity, and it seemed they may have missed their chance. But like Olt this spring, Lake has impressed the Cubs’ skipper as well. And again, because Maddon is new and sees things differently, Lake’s strikeout numbers don’t concern him as much.
It’s not out of the question the Cubs could change direction, as they did last season after signing catcher George Kottaras in the offseason. The Cubs released him before Spring Training ended, choosing to go with John Baker as the backup instead. It’s possible Denorfia could see the same fate.
The Cubs do have outfield options, and Albert Almora is on the horizon as well. Denorfia may simply be a stopgap on two fronts. He added depth, and also would act as a safety net if Coghlan’s comeback last year didn’t carry over to this season.
The decisions are looming, and within the next week, all of these players will know the results of all this speculation.