In an effort to save money, the Cubs could place Kris Bryant in the outfield.
In case you haven’t heard, the Chicago Cubs need outfield depth. With Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora sent packing via non-tenders, Jason Heyward and Ian Happ are left as the only remaining outfielders on the 40-man roster.
I’m not a numbers guy, but that leaves one vacant starting outfield spot, and at least one more opening for a reserve. Whether or not the Cubs will spend in a meaningful way this winter remains to be seen. Should the team choose to hang onto their checkbooks, there is one current Cub with outfield experience who could see some serious time in left field: Kris Bryant.
The outfield free agent market is growing smaller by the day, with Hunter Renfroe signing a one-year $3.1 million deal with the Boston Red Sox on Monday.
If you’ve read my recent work, you’ll know I have been a big advocate for signing Kevin Pillar, who would likely cost around $4-5 million for next season. If not Pillar, Jurickson Profar would fit in nicely, and his ability to play multiple positions might be more beneficial in the long run.
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Though it doesn’t appear from the outside the Cubs are in a rush to make new additions. The big reason for this is the uncertainty of next season which is affecting the team’s budget. Regardless, that same uncertainty isn’t stopping other teams in the league from making moves at a low-price, and it’s only a matter of time before the Cubs are picking from the scraps of what’s left.
This leads me to believe the Cubs might not even go after a proven outfielder. Instead, I wouldn’t be surprised if the team decided to do some rearranging and move Bryant to left field, and slide over some combination of David Bote and Nico Hoerner at third base.
We’ve seen this type of defensive change impact big names in baseball before. In 2002, the Atlanta Braves moved Chipper Jones from third base to left field. Although, that’s probably not a good example considering Larry’s defensive issues and injuries which ended his journey to the outfield a few seasons later.
A more successful version of this experiment comes in the form of Ryan Braun, who also happens to be a free agent. Not many remember, but Braun played 112 games at third base en route to winning Rookie of the Year in 2007. The following season Braun was moved to left field for some roster rearrangement and the rest is history.
Defensively the Cubs wouldn’t suffer as Bryant has proven to be a capable defender in the outfield, and the same could be said about Bote and Hoerner in the infield. The problem with this move is nothing changes from a season ago with the offense. A combination of these players starting together in different positions is just a different version of a lineup from last season. The team would essentially roll the dice on bounce back seasons from all three players.
That being said, the gamble of shifting around current position players might be better than spending money on a free agent outfielder in the team’s 2021 budget. I only say this because there are a handful of current outfielders who, on paper, could improve the Cubs offensively. I would still rather sign a player like Pillar or Profar on the cheap.
The defensive rearrangements of current Cubs would allow for the ability to spend money on the team’s other needs. All that’s left is for Jed Hoyer and the Cubs to figure out their budget. As for how long until that’s figured out, who knows?