Cubs have a major outfield depth problem after this week’s non-tenders

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

After non-tendering Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora, the Cubs lack depth.

All of the sudden, the Chicago Cubs outfield is incredibly thin and if Ian Happ and Jason Heyward are unable to replicate their 2020 success next season, we could be looking at a major weakness of the club.

Of course, newly-anointed president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer made the decision to non-tender Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora on Wednesday. The move will save the Cubs somewhere in the range of $10 million in payroll – and signifies a shift in offensive philosophy for the club toward a more contact-oriented approach.

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Now, if somehow we make it to Opening Day and Kris Bryant is still on the roster, he could fill that void in left field. But let’s assume, just for argument’s sake, Chicago trades the former MVP and his $18.6 million salary this winter as is widely expected. Not only will the team have a vacancy in left field, but the hot corner also becomes a major question mark.

That one is more easily addressed than the outfield, at least at this point. David Bote would likely get the chance to take over the starting job at third given his experience at the position and his team-friendly contract that runs through 2026 via a pair of club options.

But left field? That’s wide open. You could move Happ over to left and pursue a true center fielder. Of course, Heyward has experience there, but the metrics show he’s much stronger defensively in right field, which is where the team has worked to keep him during his Cubs career.

Nico Hoerner got some looks in center, but as we’ve discussed ad nauseam, his offense at the big league level leaves plenty to be desired. It’s hard to envision Chicago not giving him some time to season in the minors next year, hopefully allowing him to continue to develop his skillset.

What all of this means is Chicago essentially has to add outfield pieces in the months to come. There won’t be any shortage of options, especially with the number of free agents in the wake of this week’s flurry of non-tenders. 

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The offseason is just getting started and it’s already abundantly clear: this isn’t business as usual in the offices at Gallagher Way. This roster is undergoing a dramatic transformation – and the 2021 Cubs will look wildly different. Just what that will entail remains to be seen.