[Ed. – The following is another guest post from freelance reporter and ESPNChicago.com contributor, Sahadev Sharma. With the Winter Meetings in full swing, Sahadev wanted to offer some thoughts on the Cubs’ outfield situation. Have I mentioned that Sahadev and I do a podcast? We’ll have a new episode for you tomorrow, but you can check out our previous episodes – and subscribe – here.]

As the first day of the Winter Meetings wound down, reports surfaced that the Cubs may be targeting a right fielder and plugging their center field hole with David DeJesus.

That struck me as a little strange, considering the strong players available via trade or free agency that can play center field, all of whom are better defenders than DeJesus. DeJesus is adequate (advanced statistics suggest he’s below average) in center field, but considering how much teams value up-the-middle defenders, this potential move seems odd. Perhaps the Cubs are trying to increase DeJesus’ value. Or maybe the rumor is simply being misinterpreted in that the Cubs are just considering right fielders in addition to center fielders. Which would make perfect sense, why not increase your pool of candidates by not limiting yourself to center field?

As for that hole in center field, it does appear rather gaping. In 44 games in 2012, Brett Jackson proved he could handle the position defensively, and, while he showed solid patience at the plate (15.5% BB%), his shudder-inducing 41.6% strikeout rate left much to be desired. The Cubs have already stated that Jackson will be starting 2013 at AAA and while I may be one of the few that still believe he can improve his approach enough to be a valuable major-league player, the Cubs are going to need someone to roam center (or right) to start the season.

There are already three names that made sense for the Cubs to pursue that are off the market: B.J. Upton (Braves, $75M/5 years), Denard Span (Nationals, acquired for pitching prospect Alex Meyer) and Angel Pagan (Giants, $40M/4 years). Without going into too much detail, Span seems like he would have been the best fit (will be 29 for 2013 season and on a team-friendly contract), but the Cubs weren’t a good match with the Twins who were seeking young pitching in return. Upton would have been my second choice due to age and the slight chance, however unlikely, that he is still tapping into his potential. Pagan would have been last, since he’s 31 and that type of money doesn’t seem wise for a player who will be on the downswing of his career when the Cubs will realistically be competing again.

That said there are still plenty of solid candidates for the Cubs to choose from to fill their hole in center field.

Josh Hamilton – To be frank, it’s not happening. There are those that insist the Cubs should aggressively pursue the likes of Hamilton and Greinke on high-priced, short-term deals. These people contend that, at the very least, the Cubs need to check if these free agents are willing to sign shorter term deals at a higher per year value. First of all, to suggest that Theo Epstein and his staff haven’t thought of this idea is laughable. Epstein is one of the most meticulous executives in all of baseball; it’d be a surprise if he hadn’t checked in on every free agent and every player that may be on the trade market in some fashion. Secondly, there are almost no free agents that would pass up the highest dollar amount, meaning total contract value. Both the agents and players association enjoy seeing those big, long-term deals. The deal Cliff Lee signed with Philadelphia a few years ago is a rarity in this game.

Despite an awful June and July and a subpar September, Hamilton still managed an impressive .285/.354/.577 line with a career high 43 home runs on the season. The bat is to be feared, but his defense in center field leaves much to be desired.

Money, years of commitment, injury concerns and personal issues all add up to Hamilton not making sense for a team that’s still a couple years from realistically contending for a World Series.

Michael Bourn – Bourn appears to be a more logical choice than Hamilton since he’s a gold glove caliber defender in center field and is a year and a half younger. Bourn also would give the Cubs a solid lead-off man, bringing a respectable OBP (.348) and tremendous speed (42 stolen bases at a decent, though not spectacular 76.4% success rate) to the table. However, the cost issue comes up once again as I expect Bourn to sign a deal that tops Upton’s, in both years and annual salary. Again, Bourn isn’t an ideal target for the Cubs, despite rumors of their interest, considering he’s a player whose value during his next contract will be highest in the first two seasons.

Dexter Fowler (trade) – At first glance Fowler seems like the perfect target for the Cubs. At 6’-4” and 190 pounds, Fowler is a physical specimen. Fowler, 26, had a breakout season in 2012, putting up an impressive .300/.389/.474 line and a very attractive 12.8% walk rate. However, a closer look at the numbers tells a different story. Fowler was aided by a .390 BABIP (he’s always had a higher BABIP, but 2012 trumped his previous high by 36 points) and doesn’t play center field nearly as well as you’d think looking at his athletic frame. What’s most concerning are Fowler’s home/away splits. At home, Fowler is hitting a robust .332/.432/.553, but away from Coors his numbers plummet to .262/.339/.381. The massive drop in slugging is a classic sign that a player numbers are the product of playing at Coors Field. Fowler may turn out to be a very productive player away from Denver, but with the Rockies asking for a hefty return in a trade, it’s a gamble I’d be unwilling to take.

Peter Bourjos (trade) – Bourjos is arguably one of the best defensive center fielders in the game. In fact, he’s one of the few players that can move Mike Trout to left field and not result in the manager being admitted to a psych ward for making such a decision. Bourjos only needs to be average with the bat to be a very productive player in the big leagues. However, with an OPS+ of 73 in 2012, Bourjos was a mess at the plate. Although he battled a wrist injury all season, which likely inhibited any success he may have had with the bat if healthy. Bourjos is a year younger than Fowler and would cost significantly less in a trade. The biggest hurdle may be that the Angels aren’t aggressively shopping Bourjos. Obviously, an unwilling trade partner makes consummating a deal a little trickier.

Coco Crisp (trade) – Crisp is a fit as he’ll cost only $7.5M for next season and has a $1M buyout for a 2014 option also at $7.5M. He’s available because the A’s have four starting quality outfielders with their recent acquisition of Chris Young. Crisp plays solid defense, is a great base runner (39-for-43 in stolen bases last season) and at age 33 would provide another strong, veteran leader to a Cubs’ team lacking in that department (save for Alfonso Soriano).

Shane Victorino – Victorino is coming off a terrible season at the plate in which he set career lows in all three slash stats (.255/.321/.383). He appears to be a perfect target for the Cubs as someone coming off a subpar season who could be signed at a very reasonable price. At 32, Victorino would provide value in many of the same areas as Crisp. If Victorino is looking for a one-year deal to up his value in 2014, he could be a fit with the Cubs. However, if he can sign with a team more likely to compete in the immediate future, Victorino would probably head elsewhere.

If the Cubs do target right fielders Nick Swisher (read the last sentence of my Bourn analysis for why he doesn’t fit), Cody Ross, Ryan Ludwick, Scott Hairston and Ryan Sweeney could all be added to this list. Whatever the Cubs decide to do, it appears that they’ll have plenty of legitimate option to fill that hole.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    Nice work.

    And a third article on BN by 10:15 AM. That’s what I call a busy day.

  • Ben

    I’d still like to see Bourne in CF for the Cubs. Depending on what the Phillies do, Bourne doesn’t have a whole lot of options.

    Otherwise, Bourjos intrigues me. He’s a defensive whiz, which might keep his salary low. If he learns to hit at all, he could be a very useful player. I can’t imagine his price to be too high.

  • Stinky Pete

    Bowden talked again last night about the Cubs and Bourn.
    “If he doesn’t go to the Phillies, Bourn will go to a wild card, like the Cubs”

    Bowden’s putting a lot of smoke out there on “Bourn to the Cubs”.

    • Noah

      But Bowden’s analysis is generally really, really awful.

  • Dustin

    I have a feeling the Cubs will do something today.

  • Spencer

    Tim Kurkjian said last night on ESPN that Victorino is probably going to get a three year deal (and possibly even a fourth year). If that’s the case, I can’t see the Cubs being in on him at that length. Bourn is still my choice.

  • MightyBear

    Crisp played for Theo in Boston so he should be familiar with what he can and cannot do.

  • MightyBear

    If I had to choose from all those listed in this article, it would be Bourn but only for 4 years, not 5.

  • TonyP

    I think we will end up with Bourjos (Marmol trade)

    • bbmoney

      I doubt Marmol is enough. I think Burjos is in line to get quite a bit of playing time for the Angels next year….unless they want the $20M corpse that is Vernon Wells to play everyday.

      • TonyP

        I was’t implying a 1 for 1 trade. Just that we will make a trade with the Angels and Marmol and Bourjos will be included in that trade.

  • Eric R

    I might be the oddball here, but I’d like to see the Cubs get Nick Swisher for a few years. He’s a world champion, and a goo bat. He could show the youngsters those World Series rings and replace some of the pop we lose when Soriano gets traded.

  • Stu

    Theo is probably playing coy right now to wait for FA’s to run out of options. That way he can underpay with either money or years.

    Hendry made the mistake of overpaying when he didn’t have to and offering conditions like no trade clauses when he didn’t have to. Soriano was a classic case where there was no one even close to the offer.

    • LWeb23

      Completely agree. As shown above, there are PLENTY of good options available.

  • Korean Goat

    if Dejesus in cenetr field, how about shin-soo choo(indians) in right field. 29y old, 4.9M$ this year, FA next year, 20-20 player, strong shoulder and good defense. ESPN said he is the most underrated right fielder yesterday. Indians tendered him but strongly want to trade him this off-season. I think he is bad to the left-hand pitcher but is better than Fukudome as a whole.

    • Featherstone

      From what is reported the asking price by the Indians on Choo is sky high. I’d love to have him as well in right field, but im not sure I want to give up a legit prospect for 1 year of control on him.

  • BD

    I like Bourn for the defense/speed combo, plus having him in CF with DeJesus in RF is very solid. Bourjous is my second choice, although that seems to give us another option for the bottom of the order rather than the top.

    On the right deal, I would also like Victorino. Seems like it would be another solid vet to add to the young guys, kind of like they did with DeJesus.

  • Frank

    Matt Garza for Lorenzo Cain+Lamb or Montgomery.

    • Lou

      Yeah, I really think that’s a good trade to think about with the Royals.

  • Dustin

    No one is drawing more interest than starter Anibal Sanchez , with a mystery team now joining the #Dodgers,#Angels,#Tigers,#RedSox,#Royal

    Could that be the Cubbies?!?

  • ncsujuri

    Because that’s what Bowden does, he doesn’t have concrete information so he makes sh*t up…

  • Noah

    I’m curious if the Cubs will look at Andres Torres if none of the players you looked at in detail above become bargains. While his offensive numbers have been pretty poor the past two seasons, I could buy a theory that he could look better away from AT&T Park and Citi Field, which could make him flippable. He’ll be cheap and is still a solid defender in CF. And he does at least draw walks.

    • Kubphan82

      Torres is about 35, a couple bad seasons, and wouldn’t produce anything near what the Cubs need… He offensively less than Barney.

  • MichiganGoat

    Another quality piece, if I had to gamble I think Crisp might be the OF pick and it would also give us the ability to say “I’m coocoo for Coco Crisp”

    • LWeb23

      I had a fantasy team name referring to him once… Remember this?


      My team name was “Koo Koo for Coco’s Poof”

  • Patrick W.

    I think they’re definitely in for a CF not a RF. If you were negotiating a trade for a contract with a CF, wouldn’t you want it to be known that you think you already have a quality CF in house and are willing to look at a RF if this negotiation doesn’t work out?

  • Njriv

    I don’t get why it has to center fielders, they can at least put DeJesus there, I think they should be looking for a RF because they really didn’t have anyone who could hit the ball out of the park other than Rizzo, Soriano and Castro on occasion.

  • Kubphan82

    The Cubs opened it up to RF from CF, because Dejesus CAN man the position for the year and it will increase his value. He’s on a 4th OF salary. If the Cubs believe in BJax ability to fix the gaping holes in his swing, then having a Pagan/Victorino/Bourn wouldn’t make much sense.

    I’d think sliding Dejesus there is encouraging news regarding the development and faith in BJax, and signing a 3 year stopgap RF makes sense for the development of Soler… It’s future planning…

  • RickyP024

    I have heard rumblings about the Twins shopping Revere. I know he played alot of RF for them, is it possible that he could make the switch to CF? Gives us a great leadoff option, and he is very young and wouldn’t require a huge amount of talent in return.

  • Deez

    We are going to lose in 2013 & we might as well lose w/ our own guys. We’ve paid these guys & developed them, now give the chance to produce or sink. Even though, BJax may K 180x, I think he deserves the opportunity to see if he can stick for a bit.

    • Spencer

      gotta ingrain that culture of losing in the young guys early :)

      • Cubbie Blues

        I know right? It’s gotta stink that your a Purdue fan as well.

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  • Muck

    I like the sound of Bourjos. Small ball player that i think has pretty good speed and we can probly plug him in th 8 spot or somthing