The Chicago Cubs are in the midst of a frustrating, roller coaster of a 2023 season. The Cubs sit six games under .500 and seven games back of first place as we head toward the All-Star break. The worst part is that the Cubs are the ONLY team in the division with a positive run differential at +23, yet are in fourth place. They also have two of the top-four NL starters in ERA in Justin Steele and Marcus Stroman and another All-Star in Dansby Swanson.
The 2-12 record in games started by Jameson Taillon is a huge contributor to the struggles but another is the lack of slugging. The Cubs sit at 20th in baseball with a team slugging percentage of .400. With word of the Padres designating Nelson Cruz for assignment, the opportunity to address the slugging issues is right there for the taking.
Along with the low team slugging percentage, the Cubs have only hit 91 home runs this reason, also 20th in baseball. Before Jed Hoyer stepped in, the Cubs had a contact problem on offense but the question now is if they’ve over-rotated trying to address that issue. With Cruz now on the market for cheap, he’s worth taking a chance on to give this offense a spark.
Cruz signed a one-year deal for $1 million with the Padres for the 2023 season. Through 49 games, he struggled with a .245 average, .681 OPS, and five home runs.
While Cruz has had a slow start to the season, it’s more important to look at his career numbers. Through 19 MLB seasons, he’s batted .274 with a .513 slugging percentage and .856 OPS. He's also a seven-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger.
For perspective, his career .513 slugging would be second on this Cubs roster (min. 100 plate appearances) behind only Christopher Morel. Even with his .399 slugging this season, that still sits at 7th on this roster, trailing Ian Happ by two points.
When Miles Mastrobuoni finds his way into the lineup and Yan Gomes is DH’ing, it’s clear there are some depth issues on this team. Sure, Gomes has raked against lefties this season and is having an above-average season offensively, but negative regression has started to kick in. This roster needs a true DH to come in and add a spark and Cruz presents the perfect spark plug.
Not only would Cruz add value to this lineup, but his veteran presence could help the younger names on this roster. Guys like Nelson Velazquez, Matt Mervis, Mike Tauchman, Jared Young, and Seiya Suzuki are all trying to find their footing in the big leagues. With a mentor like Cruz in the clubhouse who brings experience from a long and successful career, these names could benefit greatly.
Cruz is a low-cost, no-risk option worth taking a chance on. With Hayden Wesneski currently being stretched out in Triple-A, Cruz could be the bat to come in and bring some pop to this offense. This team is closer than many think and they’re running out of time to prove themselves. The pieces are there to get this team on track and back into contention.