There was much excitement going into last season about the right field position for the Chicago Cubs after Jorge Soler debuted in 2014 and displayed the batting skill he was signed for. Soler showed flashes in his first full season, but a month spent on the disabled list led to 10 total players manning right field. As a whole, they batted .254/.323/.381 with 14 home runs, 66 RBI and seven stolen bases. Let’s take a look back at the turbulent year in right field.
Like many young players on the Cubs roster, Soler’s status is up in the air going into the off-season. In his first full year in the majors, there were high expectations for him to be a potent bat in the middle of a young lineup. An ankle injury caused him to miss some major time, but his line of .262/.324/.399 with 18 doubles, a triple, 10 home runs, 47 RBI and three stolen bases was a little disappointing considering his pedigree. He was also almost lackadaisical in the field managing just a -10.7 UZR/150 rating, well below average and a liability unless he makes some adjustments.
Jorge Soler also had some trouble with his plate discipline walking 32 times, but striking out 121 times in just 366 at-bats. Soler did make quite the adjustment in the playoffs in that department walking six times versus five strikeouts and batting .474 with three home runs and five RBI. If Soler can carry his playoff momentum into next year, he could be another scary bat in a strong Cubs lineup.
However, like Starlin Castro and Javier Baez, there has been a lot of chatter about Soler being on the block to be traded for young pitching. Soler is controlled through 2020 at a reasonable $18 million guaranteed and could be a nice headliner for the right player.
If Soler is traded, the Cubs have a plethora of options to replace him. Of the nine that filled his place when he was on the disabled list, Chris Coghlan, Matt Szczur, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber are the most likely to be in the mix.
In 62 at bats, Coghlan batted just .242 with a home run and five RBI, but also 12 walks. Coghlan is still in line to be the team’s super-sub, but could also find himself on the trading block.
Many scouts thought that Bryant would end up long term in right thanks to his surprising speed and strong arm and a move there now could make sense for the NL Rookie of the Year. Bryant had just three hits in 19 at bats, but he may hold up better in a less demanding position like the outfield.
Schwarber played in just four games and notched one hit in six at bats. However, he also started two games in the playoffs in right and although not as athletic as Bryant could be a nice fit thanks to a strong catcher’s arm.
Of course, the front office could go outside the organization for help in right if Soler is moved and some intriguing names include Lonnie Chisenhall, Domonic Brown and Jason Heyward.
Chisenhall of the Cleveland Indians has been a player that the front office has been known to covet for some time. The Indians and Cubs match up well for a trade as they have a strong interest in Soler and the Cubs would like to pry away their young pitchers like Carlos Carrasco or Danny Salazar. Chisenhall could be a nice throw-in as the former top prospect has fallen out of favor in Cleveland after moving from third to right field. He always tantalized scouts with his bat speed and swing which many thought would translate to hitting for average and power. Like Soler, he’s shown flashes, but in just under 1500 at bats in the majors owns a .257/.306/.407 line with 43 home runs, 177 RBI and 11 stolen bases. It’s hard to see where he fits, but could be a nice project.
Brown and Heyward are also uneven fits for the team next year. Brown has been linked to the Cubs before in trade talks between the Phillies, but after he was outrighted to Triple-A and became a free agent, it’s unclear if the Cubs interest still remains. Like Chisenhall, Brown has shown some flashes in his career batting .272 with 27 home runs and 83 RBI in 2013. Since then, Brown has posted just a .634 OPS. Brown could probably be had cheaply on a one year deal to rebuild his value.
Heyward is probably the top outfield free agent in baseball at the moment and it’s very hard to see the Cubs spending big money on free agent pitching and him, especially when it will likely take close to $200 million to sign Heyward. However, at just 26 and having the power/speed/defense combo he has, he would be a nice part time starter in center field until shifting back over to right field for the rest of his deal.
Right field is another position in flux. Jorge Soler is definitely the incumbent starter because of his long term talents, but may be the team’s best overall trade chip to acquire starting pitching. With a lot of potential replacements already on the roster, it will be interesting to see where the front office goes in the off-season.
Cubs 2015 Position Reviews
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