The 2021 free agent class will have lots of options to help this Cubs offense
Once again, we watched the Chicago Cubs collapse to close out the 2020 season. Scoring one run in a two-game sweep at the hands of the Marlins was the icing on the cake. Even though the Cubs were crowned NL Central Champions, this season still feels like a disappointment. With another postseason let down, change is needed. In what will most likely be Theo Epstein’s final season with the Cubs, we look at a few potential options to help this offense in 2021.
Since the World Series in 2016, the Cubs have a 4-9 postseason record while averaging 2.3 runs per game, a .161 batting average and a 30% strikeout rate. Completely unacceptable numbers, but luckily, there are players out there who can come in and help this team.
The first free agent we will look at is Michael Brantley. Brantley is currently a member of the Houston Astros and plays left-field and DH. Brantley possesses two significant needs: average and contact rate. In 12 MLB seasons, Brantley has posted a .297 average and an 8.4 at-bat to strikeout rate (good for fourth amongst active hitters). Both of these numbers would immediately upgrade the Cubs lineup at an elite rate. With an OPS of .794 to go along with those stats, Brantley could come in a be a 3-4 hitter in this lineup.
More from Chicago Cubs News
- Cubs should keep close eye on non-tender candidate Cody Bellinger
- Cubs starting pitching has been thriving on the North Side
- Make no mistake: the Cubs are very much about power hitters
- Cubs: It’s time to start thinking about potential September call-ups
- Cubs: P.J. Higgins deserves to be in the lineup on a daily basis
If the NL moves forward with the DH role, Brantley will be highly sought after free agent and is someone the Cubs should break ‘some of the bank’ for if they want to contend in 2021.
The next name is one familiar to many Cubs fans: Tommy La Stella. La Stella was a guy who was in the shadows of Javier Baez and Addison Russell and needed a change of scenery to realize his full potential. He has done just that within his time with the Angles and Athletics. In 2019, he earned an All-Star appearance after batting .295 with a .832 OPS. In 2020 he has slugged .281 with a .819 OPS. La Stella notably leads the American League this season with a 16.3 at-bat per strikeout rate.
The Cubs will likely have a need at second base, and La Stella provides two similar statistics as Brantley that this team needs massive help in. A reunion with La Stella would be just what this team needs.
The last name is Nelson Cruz. Cruz is someone nearing the end of his career and at the age of 40, has still managed to produce. He’s racked up six all-star appearances, three silver sluggers, and an ALCS MVP in his 16 MLB seasons to this point. In that time, he has posted a .278 batting average with an OPS of .876. Cruz can play right field but is primarily a designated hitter. If the NL keeps this slot moving forward, Cruz could be a perfect piece to add to this lineup. He ranks 4th amongst active hitters with an at-bat per home-run rate of 15.3. He also owns a career .347 on-base percentage.
Cruz has the patience and power to improve this Cubs offense, and luckily, with his age, he won’t require a long-term deal. This could be a low-key extensive upgrade to this offense if things lineup this offseason.
With Chatwood’s big contract coming off the books and some potential trades in-store, the Cubs will hopefully have some more financial flexibility this offseason. Focusing on upgrading this offense, particularly contact rate and average, should be a priority and the options are out there. Let’s hope Epstein and this front office can set this team up for success in 2021.