Recently, we’ve discussed the Chicago Cubs’ hypothetical plans to add a veteran, everyday position player to the mix for 2015 within the context of a possible catcher addition, and in the context of a possible outfield addition (though that one is largely about how difficult it could be to find the right guy).
The short version is this: while there are possible catching fits or outfield fits out there in free agency (and there’s always the trade route), it isn’t going to be easy for the Cubs to find a clearly impactful veteran starter to add to the positional mix when they’ve already got so may positions locked down by young starters or emerging young players. It’s really rare that you’d ever look at a minor leaguer and say, “You can’t sign Free Agent X because he might block Prospect Y,” but, in the Cubs’ case, it’s pretty legitimate to want to preserve spots for guys like Kris Bryant and Addison Russell, each of whom could emerge as big league regulars as soon as early (Bryant) to mid (Russell) 2015.
… but you still hope the Cubs can figure out a way to get it done, given the importance of veteran leadership, mentorship, and offensive production on what will otherwise be a very young squad. Even if you can’t bring in a clear “starter,” having quality bench or platoon or part-time guys can go a long way.
To that end, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer remains committed to at least trying to make something of note happen this offseason on the positional side.
Although he acknowledged this week that the Cubs’ young base takes a lot of positions off of the table, in terms of outside additions this offseason, he told the Tribune: “We need to add some guys to our roster who can help provide [leadership]. We also have to lengthen out our position-playing group. We’ve had some periods of the year where our bench has been very short. And I think when you’re in contention, those pinch-hit at-bats are important …. Our big-picture focus will be on pitching, but I think we’ll be active on position players as well because in some ways, we need to bolster that area of our team.” (For more from Hoyer, see that Tribune piece, and this ESPN piece.)
The long story short there is that the front office is aware of the potential offensive shortcomings of this roster in 2015. The long-term future, offensively, is as bright for the Cubs as any team in baseball. But with so many young guys going through their ups and downs, you’re not going to have consistently solid offense all the time. You can smooth that out a bit – and lengthen the lineup (i.e., give the opposing pitcher a tough at bat in each of the first eight spots in the order – by adding one or more established, veteran hitters, who can reliably produce.
We’ll see if that proves to be an impact addition like a Russell Martin or a leadoff-potential outfielder, or if it is more focused on complementary pieces. We know that the Cubs will have the money to be aggressive, even as they reserve, perhaps, their biggest chips for the pitching side.