[It looks like a signing is happening, as you can see in the update below. Text of original post follows.]
What prompts this write-up on free agent outfielder Chris Denorfia?
This tweet from none other than former Cubs catcher John Baker:
Chris Denorifa to the @cubs ? Deno is one of my favorite teammates of all time! The Cubs fans are going to love him. Enjoy him Chicago.
— John Baker (@manbearwolf) December 31, 2014
I’d be cautious about reading that as fact just yet, as Baker went on to respond to at least one question on Twitter that Denorfia to the Cubs “could just be rumors.”
It certainly passes the smell test, though, given that:
(1) Baker and Denorfia were teammates in San Diego;
(2) Denorfia was a Jed Hoyer acquisition while with the Padres; and
(3) Denorfia is a right-handed hitting outfielder who would complement the Cubs’ current outfield quite nicely.
We’ve discussed Denorfia before as an option for the Cubs,* and it’s a pretty solid fit. At 34, Denorfia is a vet with a right-handed bat who can play every outfield position. He had four quietly excellent years in San Diego before falling way off last year, and being traded midseason to the Mariners. In 2014, Denorfia hit just .230/.284/.318 with peripherals that all took a step back, and he didn’t even hit lefties particular well (though he’s crushed them for his career). The effects of aging? A blip?
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of deal Denorfia gets, and whether it does come from the Cubs. Before 2014, he was looking like a guy who could get a multi-year deal, but, now 34 and coming off a really all-around bad season, it’s hard to see him getting more than a very small guarantee on a one-year deal. That might be the right deal for the Cubs, especially if they’d like to preserve any remaining dollars to take a crack at adding a significant bat, and especially if Denorfia costs less than Justin Ruggiano projected to make in arbitration ($2.5 to $3 million).
*(And, yes, this is a total back-pat, but how can I not? Back when Justin Ruggiano’s season ended in late August, I discussed the possibility that the Cubs could move on from him and could bring in someone like … “Chris Denorfia, as an example, strikes me as this front office’s type, given the versatility, leadership, and bounce-back range.”)
UPDATE: John Baker don’t lie. Ken Rosenthal just reported the signing, pending a physical:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 31, 2014
Those among you were are stridently anti-Jonny Gomes (for whatever reason) will be very happy about this news. I’ll have more on what Denorfia means for the Cubs soon. When the deal becomes official, it’s going to require clearing a spot on the 40-man roster.
UPDATE 2: Jon Heyman says Denorfia will get about $2.5 million, which is the range I would have expected. Essentially, the Cubs swapped out Ruggiano for Denorfia, and picked up relief prospect Matt Brazis for their trouble. I don’t mind it.