The Cubs’ offense has not performed to expectations this season. And the front office could be looking for a spark at the top of the lineup.
With the Kyle Schwarber leadoff experiment not producing results and the young slugger in Triple-A attempting to get back on track, the Cubs have not found a way to put runs on the board on a consistent basis. Joe Maddon has inserted the likes of Anthony Rizzo, the ‘greatest leadoff hitter of all-time,’ and Willson Contreras at the top of his lineup, but he has not found the right combination to break the win-one, lose-one streak the Cubs have been on for weeks.
According to Bruce Levine, the Cubs are showing interest in veteran outfielder Denard Span.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer realize the team could use a consistent veteran bat at the top of the lineup, similar to what Dexter Fowler gave the Cubs the previous two seasons.
Span has performed well for a disappointing Giants’ team (31-51, 23 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West). Span is hitting .298/.347/.456 with 13 doubles, four triples and five home runs for a .803 OPS in 58 games.
Span is owed the remainder of his $9 million salary ($4.5 million on July 1) for this season on the three-year, $31 million deal he signed with the Giants in January 2016. Span is scheduled to make $9 million next year (2018) and has a mutual option of the 2019 season worth $12 million that includes a $4 million buyout.
The Cubs’ interest in Span should not come as a surprise. The Cubs were linked heavily to Span prior to acquiring Fowler from the Astros in January 2015. Span was under control of the Nationals at the time.
Before Span landed the guaranteed three-year contract with the Giants, the Cubs were one of several teams linked to the centerfielder on a shorter-term deal than he ended up signing. The lefty-hitting, 33-year old Span has struggled with injuries over the last three seasons. When healthy, Span is still a productive big league hitter and adequate outfielder.
Trading for Span would be a big gamble and roughly a minimum $17 million commitment, but a better, and less risky, option than trying to acquire the light-hitting Billy Hamilton (Reds) or Dee Gordon (Marlins), especially with Flash Jr.’s history of PEDs.
Epstein and Hoyer are focused on adding a starting pitcher, or two, but not a rental. Any pitcher the Cubs would try to acquire would have to have multiple years of control. The Cubs have been linked heavily to Sonny Gray (A’s), Chris Archer (Rays) and Justin Verlander (Tigers). Each of those starters figure to be extremely expensive.
Despite playing .500 ball this season, the Cubs are contending for a second straight NL Central title. The division has struggled this year and Maddon’s team is one good run away from taking over the top spot and creating distance between the Brewers and Cardinals.
It should be a rather interesting month as the front office explores ways to fill multiple holes (starting pitcher or pitchers, relievers, veteran backup catcher, leadoff man) on the big league roster, not only for this season but for the next several years.