The Cubs are in the process of exploring lots of options right now, some of which will aim to address their abysmal production in center field last season. They were right in the middle of the pack with a 90 wRC+, but they got either the worst or second-worst production in MLB based on defensive metrics and really need someone to hold things down in center until Pete Crow-Armstrong is ready.
“We have guys internally that will certainly play out there,” Jed Hoyer said during Wednesday’s media availability. “But I think the lion’s share might come from external.”
As we saw during the postseason, well-constructed teams still value glove-first center fielders even if it means they have to deal with a hole in the lineup. The Cubs can’t really do that with the roster they’ve got right now, so Hoyer is going to have to figure out how to make big improvements elsewhere if he indeed sees upgrading outfield defense as a priority.
And based on the pitching staff he’s got in place, he’d better be focused on getting much better up the middle.
Hoyer admitted that injuries to Alexander Canario and the back issue that shut Brennen Davis down in the Arizona Fall League put a spotlight on center, though he said the plan was always to add from the outside in that area. Exactly how they go about doing that remains to be seen, but they probably won’t be shopping at the top of the market.
Brandon Nimmo is easily the best player available for the spot, but the Cubs probably aren’t looking to spend big when they have so many top prospects nearing the bigs. More plausible possibilities include bringing in either Kevin Kiermaier, who just had his 2023 option declined by the Rays, or Cody Bellinger, who will probably be non-tendered by the Dodgers, on lower one-year deals. Even with health and performance questions, limited time and money eliminate most of the risk.
Another intriguing option we’ve discussed here previously is a trade with the Giants for Mike Yastrzemski, who might be expendable as San Francisco looks to get younger. Aaron Judge landing in the Bay Area might hasten a move as well, so that’s something to keep an eye on.
The Cubs also have several in-house options who can handle center on a temporary basis, so they have a safety net no matter what they choose to do.