The Chicago Cubs offense has not lived up to expectations this season. No one can argue that.
Of course, there are some exceptions (Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant), as well as some pleasant surprises (Ian Happ), but overall, the Cubs are no where near where they want to be or, realistically, should be:
93 wRC+ (19th in MLB)
317 wOBA (17th in MLB)
However, by some stroke of luck, the NL Central has been wholly beatable this season. So the Cubs, at an even 41-41, remain in second place, well within striking distance of the first-place Milwaukee Brewers.
To that end, we already know that the Cubs are very likely to add an arm at the trade deadline (.500 or not, winning the division is still the most likely outcome), but could they add a bat, too? After all, Jed Hoyer said the Cubs wouldn’t rule anything out.
Focus on adding a bat doesn’t seem likely given the Cubs collection of young, talented positional players, but, according to Bruce Levine, the Cubs may have interest in Denard Span.
Levine reported on the radio this weekend that the Cubs could have interest in adding a veteran bat like Span’s to the team before the deadline, citing their prior interest in Span before he signed with the Giants prior to the 2016 season (h/t The CCO).
For what it’s worth, Span is owed about $4.5 million more this season, $9 million in 2018, and has a mutual option worth $12 million ($4 million buyout) in 2019. So, acquiring the left-handed outfielder will cost at least $17.5 million (depending on who and what salaries are included in the deal).
But, more importantly, how is he actually doing these days?
Span, 33, is hitting very well this season, laying claim to a .292/.343/.449 slash line, which is about 13% better than the average Major League hitter. More importantly, he crushes right-handed hitting (121 wRC+), which is something the Cubs have struggled with mightily this year (88 wRC+, 24th in baseball). He also never strikes out (12.2% K rate). The bat, setting aside everything else, would be a nice addition.
But … I’m going to rain on this parade a little.
Aside from the obvious reasons I don’t think the Cubs should aggressively target Span (his age, relatively expensive remaining contract, the existing roster), there are at least a couple things to dislike, too. For one, he’s been terrible against left-handed pitching (79 wRC+ this season, 59 last season, 52 the year before that), and he’s been a terrible outfielder – by one measure, the worst outfielder in baseball.
Indeed, Span’s -14 Defensive Runs Saved this season rank dead last among all qualified outfielders in baseball. Andrew McCutchen actually ranks behind among center fielders, but added some value playing in the corners earlier this season.
Defensively, it’s not a one-year anomaly for Span, who has rated well below average each of the last four seasons.
Given that the Cubs’ center fielder is often flanked by guys like Ben Zobrist and Kyle Schwarber, I don’t think the Cubs necessarily need another weak defender on the roster. Throw in the fact that Span is 33 and expensive, and I don’t necessarily see Span as a perfect fit.
Span is a fine player, there’s no doubt, and I even understand why the Cubs may have shown interest in him in the past, but if the Cubs offense is going to improve this season, it’s still more likely going to have to come from within.