One of the areas the front office would like to address this off-season is the outfield, specifically center field. With Dexter Fowler expected to sign with another team and Jason Heyward the Cubs’ everyday right fielder, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have stated publicly they are looking for a player to complement Albert Almora Jr. in center field for next season.
The front office believes Almora Jr. will eventually be the team’s everyday centerfielder. But with only 47 games and 117 plate appearances in the majors, the Cubs believe Almora Jr. simply needs more time.
Ken Rosenthal reiterated the Cubs want to “add a left-handed hitting centerfielder to complement to Albert Almora Jr. The team wants to protect Almora next season, believing he will be more fully ready to emerge in 2018.”
The Yankees are looking to get younger and Brian Cashman has said he is willing to listen on all of his players. Cashman recently traded Brian McCann to the Astros and would like to find teams to send Chase Headley and Brett Gardner to this off-season.
The Cubs were connected heavily to Brett Gardner last off-season. Reports indicated that the initial talks for Starlin Castro included Gardner. The Cubs made the deal with the Yankees for Castro but it was for Adam Warren, who was sent back to the Bronx in the Aroldis Chapman deal.
According to Nick Cafardo, the Cubs are one of six possible destinations for Brett Gardner. The Cubs, along with the Cardinals, Blue Jays, Orioles, Nationals and Giants, are believed to be interested in adding Gardner to their roster.
Brett Gardner is under club control for three more years and he’s coming off a good season. Gardner not only performed well at the plate, the 33-year old outfielder won his first Gold Glove.
Gardner is owed $12 million for next season and $11 million in 2018. Gardner has a club option for 2019 worth $12.5 million that includes a $2 million buyout. And his contract has a $1 million assignment bonus if he is traded.
In 148 games, Gardner hit .261/.351/.362 with 22 doubles, six triples and seven home runs for a .713 OPS. Gardner played only three games (two starts) in center field due to Jacoby Ellsbury actually staying on the field for 148 games. Gardner has played 43 games the last two seasons combined in center field.
Gardner hit .268/.368/.377 with 17 doubles, four triples and five home runs in 130 games (432 plate appearances) against right-handed pitchers with a .745 OPS. And at the top of Joe Girardi’s lineup last season, Gardner batted .258/.347/.379 with a .726 OPS.
Whether or not Brett Gardner can play center on basically a daily basis, hit at the top of Joe Maddon’s lineup and give the Cubs the complement to Albert Almora Jr. the front office is looking for would be hard to say. It’s just interesting that once again the Cubs are linked to Brett Gardner in an off-season in which the front office is looking for a left-handed hitting outfielder.