Ryan Sweeney started the 2013 season as a Boston Red Sox roster casualty, and then a minor league pick-up by the Chicago Cubs. He ended the season an intriguing outfield option going forward, but an impending free agent.
Not content to see Sweeney walk, the Cubs today locked him up to a two-year, $3.5 million deal, per Bob Nightengale (UPDATE: Many others confirm.) The deal also comes with a $2.5 million 2016 option ($500K buyout), presumably of the club variety. Sweeney will earn $1.5 million in each of 2014 and 2015.
Despite an atypically low BABIP (.288, when he’s usually around .320), Sweeney posted a solid .266/.324/.448 in 212 plate appearances this year, good for a 109 OPS+. The lefty played mostly center field, but can move all over the outfield. Sweeney is just 28.
On first glance, this is a fantastic signing by the Cubs. While Sweeney was technically a minor league signee last year, that had more to do with timing, arbitration, and a Red Sox roster crunch than it had to do with Sweeney’s ability as a quality bench player. For $1.5 million per year, Sweeney need not be anything more than a good fourth outfielder – something he should be in spades – to be a value to the Cubs. Moreover, should the Cubs suffer an injury or fail to land a more notable bat in center field this offseason, Sweeney could be the left-handed part of a relatively productive platoon. As a worst case scenario, that’s not all that bad.