AJ Pollock isn't the center field answer the Cubs are searching for
By Jake Misener
Across town, the White Sox face a critical offseason. Despite sky-high expectations and a weak American League Central, Chicago not only failed to win the division, but missed the postseason entirely. With a new manager and change in the air, they'll look to get back on track in 2023.
Longtime White Sox staple and clubhouse leader Jose Abreu is rumored to be at the top of the Cubs' wish list - and another veteran won't be back after surprisingly declining his player option for 2023 in AJ Pollock.
Cubs need to read the red flags when it comes to AJ Pollock
The 34-year-old outfielder looked like a shell of his former self in 2022, as age seemed to be catching up with him in almost every aspect of his game. He wasn't even a league average bat in terms of OPS+, a first for him since back in 2016 when he was with the Diamondbacks. Metrics didn't love his work in the outfield, either, and he failed to hit double-digit stolen bases once again.
"I think it was always most likely that we go outside and certainly [Alexander] Canario’s injury, Brennan [Davis’] setback, I think made that that much more obvious. So, I think we can expect that. "- Jed Hoyer
The Cubs are going to go outside the organization in some capacity to address center field this winter. Their two up-and-comers in the system, Alexander Canario and Brennen Davis, have health concerns (with the former facing a tough road back after a freak injury this fall) - and with Christopher Morel transitioning to more of a utility role in 2023, there's a gaping hole in center field.
He was solid against lefties, slashing .286/.316/.619 - with 11 of his 14 home runs coming against southpaws. But given he turned down a $13 million player option, it's hard to imagine a team coughing up more than that (or, really anywhere close to it) for a platoon outfielder.
Chicago would be far better off seeing if they could swing a trade for someone like Cody Bellinger, although he's certainly a huge risk given he hasn't been able to replicate his once-elite offensive production in years - or even pursuing someone like Kevin Kiermaier who, at the very least, runs well and is an elite defender in the outfield.
Regardless of how Hoyer addresses his team's center field need, I think we can all agree: signing Pollock, a guy who seems to be in the twilight years of his career, isn't the answer here.