Chicago Cubs: Javier Baez remains an option in center field
Javier Baez has been playing center field in Winter League play. Could he be an option for the Chicago Cubs in 2016?
Despite it being a priority for the off-season, the Cubs have yet to add a true starting center fielder to the roster. Free agent acquisition Jason Heyward could line up in center if the Cubs do not add anyone.
But he has been outstanding in right field. It seems a shame to make one of the game’s best right fielders into an adequate center fielder.
Javier Baez could be another option for center. Stuck behind Addison Russell and Ben Zobrist on the depth chart in the infield, Baez has been spending time in center field in Caribbean Winter League play with the hopes of improving his versatility and find more playing time.
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In an article on ESPN.com, Jesse Rogers suggests the Cubs are reluctant to move Baez out of the infield for much the same reason that they’d be reluctant to move Heyward from right: he’s a really good fielder there.
But if Baez could make a smooth transition to center, it would be beneficial to both him and the club.
Baez told Jesse Rogers of ESPN.com that he’s had experience in center growing up. “I learned how to read the ball off the bat and I got really good at it and kept working on it,” he said.
It would be exciting to see more of Baez in 2016 and it’s fun to think about what he could accomplish as an everyday player. But the Cubs might be reluctant to make the shift full-time. In Rogers’ article, he notes that Cubs brass really likes Baez on the infield.
They could be reluctant to move Baez for the same reason they’d be reluctant to move Heyward: his glove is too good where he already plays.
Baez also shouldn’t be counted on to be the lead-off hitter the Cubs hope to see packaged in their center fielder. His tendencies to swing and miss are well documented and ideally, teams prefer to have more of an on-base guy who makes consistent contact in the top spot.
Additionally, his impressive power seems lost at the top of the lineup.
The Cubs are still exploring other options in center. The return of Dexter Fowler has not been ruled out.
They may also see how Denard Span is recovering from hip surgery when he starts working out for teams in January. But Baez being able to spend some time in center should help us see more of the exciting young player in 2016.