So far this offseason, in large part, Shane Victorino’s name has been absent from the various discussions we see on the Cubs’ outfield plans. Whether they look to add a right fielder and slide David DeJesus into center field, or whether they look to pick up a center fielder and leave DeJesus where his defense is better, you’d think the Cubs would at least be considering Victorino, who can play all over the outfield.
And, if Jerry Crasnick is right, the Cubs are indeed considering Victorino. The ESPN writer says the Cubs, together with Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies (“tepid” interest), and Indians (“prime suitor“) are the teams checking in on the free agent outfielder, who is looking for a three or four-year deal.
Victorino, 32, is coming off a strongly down 2012 season, which he split between Philadelphia and Los Angeles, and hit just .255/.321/.383. In the six seasons before that, combined, he hit .282/.348/.443. So, was 2012 an aberration, or the start of the inevitable decline associated with aging? His BABIP last year was an unusually low .278, but, when it comes to “speed” guys entering their mid-30s, you can’t always assume a BABIP drop was just bad luck. Interestingly, Victorino, for all his speed, has tended to be a sub-.300 BABIP guy to begin with. That makes me nervous about his ability to get that 2012 line back up next year (to say nothing of the two or three years after that).
Thanks to his defense, which has long been above average, Victorino still amassed a 3.3 WAR last year, despite the weak offense. If that defense holds up over the next three years, he’s a good bet to still have a fair bit of value, but he might quickly become an offensive black hole.
Given that Victorino’s skills might erode quickly as he hits 33, 34, and 35, it’s hard to see the Cubs doing more than just “checking in” on Victorino to see if they could steal a bargain. If he somehow matches the deal Angel Pagan got from the Giants – four years, $40 million – that isn’t something I’d want to see the Cubs involved in, unless they’re going to pull a huge rabbit or two out of the hat to put a winner on the field in 2013. A three-year deal? There might be a higher likelihood of surplus value there, but it also is less likely to overlap with the Cubs’ competitive window.
(If you’re wondering, yes, I’d rather see the Cubs give Michael Bourn five years and $80 million than Victorino four and $40 million. Bourn is the superior defender, and likely better with the bat. But, most importantly for the Cubs’ purposes, he’s a little more than two years younger. To be clear, however, I don’t really see the Cubs going full bore after either player.)
We might not have to wait long to see what happens with Victorino – Crasnick reports that things are heating up with him, and he could sign his deal before the Winter Meetings end on Thursday.