Cubs: A Brandon Nimmo signing would solve the center field problem

(Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
(Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images) /

Since fan favorite Dexter Fowler packed his bags for St. Louis following the 2016 season, the Cubs have lacked a consistent answer in center field.

Albert Almora got more than a fair shot at becoming the long-term solution, but never took that next step offensively, and since his departure, Chicago has pieced it together with Ian Happ, Rafael Ortega, Cameron Maybin, Jason Heyward, Nico Hoerner and Christopher Morel, among others, seeing time in center.

Cubs loosely tied to Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo in rumors

A superstar shortstop and top-of-the-rotation arm sit atop most fan’s offseason wish list, but the Cubs also figure to be very active in the center field market and have been connected to longtime Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo of late.

Nimmo, 29, somewhat quietly turned in the best year of his career as he gets ready to hit free agency for the first time this winter, accumulating 5.4 fWAR – the third-highest mark on the Mets, trailing only Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil.

It’s not hard to envision how seamlessly Nimmo would fit into the larger picture for the Cubs. The organization plans on using a main cog in the outfield mix in 2022, Morel, as more of a utility player moving forward, leaving a vacancy in center field. Signing Nimmo would provide a major upgrade, giving Chicago a potential Opening Day outfield of Happ, Nimmo and Seiya Suzuki.

There’s not much Nimmo doesn’t do well. He slashed his strikeout rate down to 17.2 percent this year, while walking in more than 10 percent of his trips to the plate. His .385 on-base percentage would have led the Cubs by a wide margin, helping inject a consistent table setter into the lineup.

Of course, with the likely departure of Willson Contreras in free agency, Jed Hoyer is going to have to add power to the batting order. Doing so would allow the Cubs to really capitalize on Nimmo’s on-base skills at the top of the lineup, hopefully helping jump start an offense that certainly battled its fair share of issues this year.

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Nimmo graded out well defensively, ranking in the 91st percentile in outs above average, despite a below-average mark in outfielder jump. He runs well, controls the zone in at-bats and could really solidify the Cubs’ outfield plans. With Suzuki on a five-year deal and, at least right now, a degree of uncertainty when it comes to Happ’s future, adding someone like Nimmo to the mix puts Chicago in a strong position as its outfield prospects begin to break into the league in coming years.