Cubs: Rafael Ortega is a trade chip worth keeping an eye on

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

Looking at who the Chicago Cubs might move between now and the Aug. 2 trade deadline, we’re going to spend a good amount of time talking about Ian Happ, Willson Contreras and some members of the pitching staff.

But not all trades have to include marquee names. For a rebuilding team like Chicago, there’s less of a reason to hold onto even that next tier of player – non-superstars who can still make an impact on the field. That’s especially true if there’s a contender willing to maybe overpay a bit for the right piece.

One player on this team who fits that description perfectly is outfielder Rafael Ortega who, after a slow start, has built on what he did during his breakout showing last summer. His walk rate ranks in the 90th percentile, due large in part to an above-average chase rate (75th percentile) and whiff rate (77th percentile). 

Now he’s probably not an everyday guy – at least not on a team with championship aspirations. But he’s absolutely a guy capable of being your fourth outfielder, ready for those right-handed matchups from the left side.

Cubs: Rafael Ortega could be a perfect piece for a postseason contender

Last year, he put up a .900 OPS against right-handed pitching; compared to a dismal .421 mark against southpaws. He’s improved a great deal against lefties in 2022 (in a very, very small 16 plate appearance sample size) – and has a .765 OPS against righties. He’s rebounded from a .304 OBP in the season’s first month and is scorching hot here in June with an .897 OPS entering action Sunday.

We know a team like the Mets is looking for a left-handed bat in their outfield mix. While they’ve been connected to Happ (among others), if they’re looking to add more of a supplementary piece, someone like Ortega, who comes with a much lower asking price, could make sense.

Cubbies Crib
Cubbies Crib /

Want your voice heard? Join the Cubbies Crib team!

Write for us!

Next. Ian Happ ‘expected to hit the market’ this summer. dark

Now, the Cubs by no means need to trade him this summer. Ortega isn’t even arbitration-eligible until 2024 and won’t hit free agency until 2027. But if a team comes calling and the offer is right, don’t be surprised to see Jed Hoyer shopping the 31-year-old outfielder this summer.