Exactly one week ago today, Arizona Phil reported that the Chicago Cubs had signed 25-year-old left-handed starting pitcher Daniel Camarena to a Minor League contract and we discussed his potential/role within the organization. And today, we’re going to do it again, only this time with new Cubs minor league outfielder, Wynton Bernard.
At the Cub Reporter, Arizona Phil has writes that the Cubs have signed 27-year old free-agent outfielder Wynton Bernard to a Minor League contract. According to Phil, Bernard, like Camarena, has been assigned to Triple-A Iowa and while a non-roster invitation to Spring Training is expected, it’s still TBD.
So who is this guy? I’m glad you asked.
Bernard was taken by the San Diego Padres in the 35th round of the 2012 MLB Draft and spent two relatively unsuccessful years in San Diego’s organization before being released at the end of the 2013 season. Following that, he signed a Minor League deal with the Tigers and broke out for the first time at A-Ball (142 wRC+) in 2014. Bernard reached Double-A the following season (2015), posting a solid .301/.352/.408 slash line, and finally debuted at Triple-A in 2016.
Unfortunately, that’s where he stalled out a bit: .235/.286/.302, and half-way through the season Bernard was demoted back to Double-A. He was mostly solid at the plate upon returning to that level (135 wRC+), but a 25-year-old Double-A outfielder wasn’t something the Tigers were keen on keeping.
This past year, Bernard signed a Minor League deal with the Giants, who sent him straight to Triple-A. Unfortunately, despite improving on his slash line, Bernard’s wRC+, which compares him against the rest of the league and includes park factors, remained stagnant (68 wRC+). He became a free agent at the end of the 2017 season and now he’s here signing with the Cubs.
Hopefully, by now, you’re wondering why the heck the Cubs are interested in this guy, given his struggles at the plate, and the fact that he still hasn’t shown that he belongs in the Major Leagues. Well, that’s because I’ve left out a couple of very important pieces of information.
First, Bernard is a legit center fielder, capable of adding a plus glove to all three spots in the outfield. And second, according to Baseball America, his speed is very real – in fact, they call it his best tool, and seem to make it sound like it’s the primary reason his career is still chugging along. Suddenly, it all makes sense.
Obviously, at the highest level, the Cubs would love for Bernard’s bat to suddenly match his other skills and help him turn into a sure-fire, everyday player, but I don’t think that’s what this signing is about. In fact, I don’t even think it’s entirely about extra outfield depth in the upper Minors.
Instead, I think the Cubs just added that player they seem to add every August via trade for September – the one who can come in, steal a base, and provide quality outfield defense at the end of competitive games down the stretch.
In that way, Bernard might never start a game for the Cubs, but could be a valuable pinch runner/defender when they need those skills the most (and, more importantly, when rosters have expanded). If you can get a guy like that for nothing but a Minor League contract now (versus the end of the season where you might have to trade for it (even if you’re not trading anything of too much consequence, you still prefer to part with just money)), you might as well get it done. That very well could be what the Cubs have just done.
Is it the sexiest move? Nah. But could it be helpful as soon as this season? Absolutely. Welcome, Wynton Bernard, and good luck.
Oh, and in case that wasn’t enough, here’s an, eh hem, interesting video entitled “Who is Wynton Bernard?” which includes the Cubs’ newest minor league outfielder performing 360 dunks, pushing cars up hills, standing on rocks (and in other scenic places), and even playing a little baseball!