The Cubs focus since Jon Lester put on his Cubs jersey for the first time in public has been on adding depth to the outfield. Even with the addition of Chris Denorfia, the front office isn’t believed to be done looking for an outfielder that would give Joe Maddon options.
Reports have suggested a left-handed hitting, top of the order bat that could set the table for the middle of the order and play center field was the front office’s preference. But that might not be the case.
Buster Olney reported Monday then again Tuesday the Cubs are among the teams looking for help in the outfield, one with the ability to play center field. Olney did not mention any names or specify if the Cubs search is relegated to an outfielder that bats from the left side.
At this point of the off-season, the options are very limited on the free agent market so a trade could and should be in the works.
The front office may have lost a trading partner for an outfielder if the Diamondbacks are no longer pursuing a catcher as Dave Stewart said Tuesday. Arizona was one of the teams linked to Welington Castillo, who could be used to bring back the outfielder the Cubs are reportedly looking to add.
The Phillies were reportedly interested in Castillo last month. And it would make sense for the Phillies to be interested in Castillo. Ryne Sandberg knows Castillo extremely well from his days coming up in the Cubs system with the Phillies’ skipper. Philadelphia has not be reported by the mainstream media as a possibility for Castillo since the holidays.
As for the other teams the front office could use Castillo in a package for a centerfielder, the Nationals and Rangers at one point talked to the Cubs about Castillo. There does not appear to be a match with the Nationals after Jayson Werth had shoulder surgery. It was doubtful Mike Rizzo would have dealt Denard Span to begin with considering the Nationals are trying to win games deep in October.
And other than Internet rumors, the Cubs have not been connected to a specific player in the Rangers’ organization.
Bruce Levine included the Padres in the list of teams that contacted the Cubs about Castillo last month. If the A.J. Preller is still interested and the Cubs are not limiting themselves to a left-handed hitting outfielder, Will Venable is believed to be available. Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod have a history with Venable from their days in San Diego.
Levine has also loosely connected the Cubs to the Dodgers (Andre Ethier) and the Athletics (Coco Crisp and Sam Fuld) as teams the front office could make a deal with for an outfielder.
Colby Rasmus is still on the market and is reportedly looking to sign a one-year contract. The Orioles were pushing to sign Rasmus at one point and Baltimore remains interested in him. Rasmus has not made a decision and could have been waiting for the Rays to deal Ben Zobrist before committing to a team.
The Cubs have not been connected to any of the other free-agent outfielders since agreeing to terms with Chris Denorfia on Dec. 31.
Theo Epstein said last month, the Cubs were confident enough in the improvements Arismendy Alcantara made defensively to begin the season with him in center field. With Alcantara’s skill set, he would seem to be more valuable to the Cubs moving forward in a utility role.
While the front office appears to be stuck in neutral with improving the roster, it’s only the second week in January and the Cubs do not play a game that counts for two and half months.