Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer would like to acquire a left-handed hitting centerfielder that can hit at the top of the lineup.
The Cubs have not ruled out beginning the season with Arismendy Alcantara as the starting centerfielder. It is believed the team is happy with the progress Alcantara made defensively last year and this winter playing for Licey in the Dominican Republic. And the front office thinks Alcantara will perform better at the plate than he did in his first 70 games in the big leagues.
The Cubs would like to add depth and versatility to the outfield, the same flexibility Epstein and Hoyer thinks the roster has in the infield.
On the trade front, the Cubs have been connected to Phillies’ centerfielder Ben Revere and both of the Dodgers’ left handed hitting outfielders, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier. Neither Crawford nor Ethier would seem to fit the type of player the Cubs are looking to add to the outfield mix … a lefty that plays center and can also bat at the top of the lineup.
According to Bruce Levine, the Cubs “would love to have a leadoff hitter who addresses both the on base and speed issues they lack at the top of the order.” And the Cubs could make a trade “for a centerfielder/leadoff man” that would give the team a better chance “of improving their run production.”
Levine indicated the Cubs could use Welington Castillo in a deal for an outfielder and “the Nationals’ Denard Span and Athletics centerfielder Coco Crisp are the type of short-term answers to the Cubs’ leadoff needs.”
The Nationals are believed to be one of the teams the front office has talked to about Welington Castillo along with the Phillies, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Padres, Red Sox and Rangers.
Reports last fall indicated the Cubs would be interested in Denard Span, along with several other teams, if the Nationals did not pick up his $9 million option for next season. The Nationals exercised Span’s option as expected. While Nationals’ GM, Mike Rizzo is not looking to move Span he has not ruled out trading any of the players on his roster that are eligible for free agency next winter in the right deal.
Denard Span had surgery in early December for a sports hernia and swung a bat for the first time this winter last Sunday.
Span was very good for the Nationals last year and batted .302/.355/.416 with 39 doubles, eight triples, five home runs, 31 stolen bases (31-for-38) and a .771 OPS in 147 games. Span owns a .352 OBP over his seven-year big league career. And the lefty has a .289/.350/.401 with a .751 OPS in his career versus right-handed pitchers.
Coco Crisp turned 35 in November and has a history with the Cubs’ front office from their days together in Boston. Crisp is under contract for 2015 and 2016 at $11 million per season and the extension he signed with the A’s last February has a $13 million vesting option for 2017 attached that includes a $750,000 buyout. The option becomes guaranteed with 550 plate appearances in 2016 or 1,100 plate appearances in 2015-16 or 130 games played in 2016 or 260 games played in 2015-16 with 110 of those games played in 2016.
Crisp strained his neck last May while making a diving catch and an MRI reportedly showed “chronic, degenerative changes” in his neck. Crisp played in 126 games and batted .246/.336/.363 with 21 doubles, three triples and nine home runs for a .699 OPS. From the left side, Crisp hit .256/.358/.367 with a .726 OPS. Crisp walked (66) as many times as he struck out (66) and has not totaled more than 66 strikeouts in a season in which he played at least 120 games since 2007.
The left-handed hitting Denard Span and the switch-hitting Coco Crisp would fit the type of player the Cubs are believed to be looking to add to the outfield.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer began talking about the importance of adding players with on-base skills before last season ended. The Cubs also wanted to get more left handed to balance out the lineup with players that struck out less, made more contact and have the ability to work the count.
“We need to add on-base skills and contact abilities and veteran production to the offense. Maybe we pick one spot to really upgrade while still providing opportunities for young players,” Theo Epstein said in October. “And then overhaul the bench with veterans who get it and who can be professional, good role models for guys who also know how to prepare themselves to come in and contribute at some point in the game off the bench. Those are some of the ways for us to get better.”
The front office has added Miguel Montero, Tommy La Stella, David Ross and reportedly Chris Denorfia to the roster but the Cubs are not done. Based on the volume of reports and rumors, Epstein and Hoyer are exploring multiple options for the outfield. And it appears the conversations with other teams, and free agent Colby Rasmus, are increasing.