Ryan Sweeney: Doin’ Business, Lookin’ Handsome, Accumulatin’ Value

ryan sweeney cubsOf the myriad minor league flyer and waiver wire pick-up deals the Chicago Cubs have made this year, the one that excited me the most on the positional side was the Ryan Sweeney signing.

When talk of the Red Sox letting Sweeney go started to circulate, here’s what I wrote:

The Red Sox are letting 28-year-old outfielder Ryan Sweeney go, and I wonder if he might be an interesting pick-up for the Cubs on a minor league deal, if that’s the best he can find …. He’s good defensively, can play all over the outfield, bats lefty, doesn’t strike out, sees a lot of pitches … I’d like him in the organization. Smart money says the Cubs are feeling him out.

Smart money, indeed. The Cubs subsequently signed Sweeney to a minor league deal, and I doled out further praise, essentially questioning how the Cubs were able to get such an obviously big-league-caliber player on a minor league deal.

That is all to say that I was pretty pleased that the Cubs had landed such a quality player on a no-risk deal. Time has borne out that excitement, and Sweeney’s performance deserves some highlighting today.

By the time David DeJesus sprained his shoulder earlier this month, Sweeney had already emerged as the preferred fourth outfielder on the team. But, with a lack of right-handed hitting outfielders on the bench, Sweeney was given the unenviable task of being DeJesus’s caddie in center field when there was a lefty on the mound. Now that DeJesus is out, Sweeney starts every game in center field. That means that, although he’s a lefty, he has not had the benefit of facing solely righties. Still, Sweeney is hitting .299/.348/.523 (134 OPS+). In fact, he’s actually hitting better against lefties this year (.958) than righties (.833).

The point there is to underscore that Sweeney’s numbers thus far aren’t the product of him  batting only in advantageous matchups. Neither is his performance the product of an elevated (and unsustainable) batting average on balls in play. Sweeney’s BABIP this year is .326, and it’s .324 for his career. Sweeney is also striking out at the same rate he always has (14.7% this year versus 14.6% for his career), and is actually walking slightly less (6.9% this year versus 7.9% for his career). The biggest difference has come in the form of power, where Sweeney has a .224 IsoP versus just .105 for his career. Perhaps the power is unsustainable, but he doesn’t have to sustain quite this level of power to remain a highly valuable player (especially as a fourth outfielder). Sweeney is performing well this year because he’s pretty good at baseball.

At 28, Sweeney could be a very nice player for the Cubs for a few years yet to come. He plays good defense all over the outfield, he’s got a great approach at the plate (consistently near the league leaders in pitches per plate appearance), and hits well enough to fill in for extended periods of time, even if he’s not a starter. To me, that sounds like one of the best fourth outfielders in baseball, and a guy the Cubs should keep around.

The rub for the Cubs is that Sweeney is a free agent after this season. While they might like to keep him in the fold going forward, he’s played so well, and presents so much possible value as a complementary piece that the Cubs might not be able to avoid trading him by July 31. Even if they don’t shop Sweeney, his name is going to come up in talks with other teams who, while speaking to the Cubs about a pitcher, for example, will invariably say, “hey, by the way, you know we could use a fourth outfielder, too, and that Sweeney sure is playing well …. ”

Indeed, I’ve noticed in passing that, when third parties are discussing possible Cubs trade chips, Sweeney’s name starts to come up. You don’t usually see that for minor league free agent pickups who’ve mostly been playing off the bench, but Sweeney is legitimately great in that role, and it has a lot of value. In other words, however much the Cubs might like Sweeney, they may have to strongly consider shopping him over the next month.

I’m not sure how much it adds to his trade value, but Sweeney’s popularity has gotten to the point that the outfielder has become a Ryan Gosling-esque meme. I’m not sure who started it, but I’ve seen a few pictures of Sweeney on Twitter from Julie DiCaro. What can you say? The dude is mighty handsome:

written by

Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

more cubs news

Enhanced Box Score: Cubs 4, Rays 3 – June 12, 2024

The Cubs don't "win" games anymore. They survive them. So it was tonight, with Hector Neris called upon to close out the game again, after last night's fiasco. His pitches generally fell into two categories, either noncompetitive balls or absolute...

Cody Bellinger Gives the Cubs the Lead with a Three-Run Home Run!

THAT is the kind of big swing the Cubs needed with runners on base. Take any kind of batted ball luck out of the equation by just sending the ball to the seats. Cody Bellinger gives the Cubs the lead:...

Seiya Suzuki Sends One Out to Center

Need the guys who are here to supply power to, you know, supply power. So it was good to see Seiya Suzuki get into one. This fourth inning blast tied the game up (for now): https://twitter.com/WatchMarquee/status/1801037668530167867 https://twitter.com/Taylor_McGregor/status/1801037333396853052

Pre-Gamin’: Cubs at Rays (5:50 CT) – Lineups, Broadcast Info, Game Thread

CUBS LINEUP — If you aren't going to beat the Cardinals and Reds and Rays, who are you going to beat, exactly? At least Craig Counsell is significantly shaking up the lineup tonight. This is one hell of a different...

The Cubs Have Signed Jorge Lopez – Yes, That Jorge Lopez

Even as he was being punted quickly from the New York Mets organization following the glove-throwing incident, it wasn't clear that pitcher Jorge Lopez was done pitching this year. After all, the 31-year-old reliever had a long big league track...

Chicago Cubs 1st Round Mock Draft: Exploring Potential Picks

The Chicago Cubs are set to make their first-round selection in the 2024 MLB Draft with the 14th overall selection. Oct 1, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts (R) smiles next to Chicago Cubs President of Baseball...

Owen Caissie Just Hit a Monster 10th Inning Home Run (And Then Other Stuff Happened)

If the big league Cubs aren't going to supply us with many thrilling moments, at least the prospects can step up. This afternoon, the Iowa Cubs had played the Columbus Clippers to a 1-1 tie in regulation. In the top...

MLBits: Aaron Judge’s Hot Streak, Paul Skenes Standing O, Cubs Need a Spark, More

MLB Notes — Aaron Judge was incredible in May, hitting .361/.479/.918 with 14 home runs in 97 at-bats for the Yankees. He helped New York post a 21-5 record in May, taking them to the top of the American League...

My Reaction on Some of Jed Hoyer’s Comments Today — Offense, Potential for Trades, Internal Improvements, More

This morning, Jed Hoyer joined Mully and Haugh on 670 The Score to talk about his team and where things are headed. The conversation (which you can catch in full at the bottom of this post) was mostly a collection...

Something Has to Change, and I Have Some Suggestions

Last night, the Chicago Cubs lost the way they always lose this season: No timely hitting (1-7 w/ RISP) + a bullpen meltdown (3.0 IP, 4H, 5ER, 3BB, 4K). Only the Chicago White Sox have more blown saves than the...

Latest News

Cardinals vs. Pirates Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats & Best Bets – Thursday, June 13, 2024

The St. Louis Cardinals (32-34) and Pittsburgh Pirates (32-35) meet Thursday at Busch Stadium, with first pitch at 2:15 PM ET on SportsNet PT. The Cardinals are -110 moneyline favorites for the contest, however, the Pirates are favored against the...

Yankees vs. Royals Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats & Best Bets – Thursday, June 13, 2024

Two of the league's top hitters will meet Thursday when the New York Yankees (49-21) and Kansas City Royals (39-30) take to the field at 2:10 PM ET, live on YES. Juan Soto is batting .317 for the Yankees (-172...

Aces vs Mercury: Best Bets, Player Props & Computer Picks – June 13

The Phoenix Mercury (6-6) will look to Kahleah Copper (third in WNBA, 24 points per game) going up against A'ja Wilson (first in league, 28.3) and the Las Vegas Aces (5-5) on Thursday, June 13, 2024 at Footprint Center. The...

Best MLB Prop Bets Today, June 13, 2024

In one of the 11 compelling matchups on the MLB schedule today, the New York Yankees and the Kansas City Royals hit the field at Kauffman Stadium.If you're interested in MLB prop bets for today's games, we're here to assist...

Las Vegas Aces vs. Phoenix Mercury: Start Time, Streaming Live, TV Channel, How to Watch

A pair of the WNBA's best scorers face off when A'ja Wilson (first, 28.3 points per game) and the Las Vegas Aces (5-5) visit Kahleah Copper (third, 24) and the Phoenix Mercury (6-6) on Thursday, June 13, 2024 at 10:00...

Tigers vs. Nationals Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats & Best Bets – Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Detroit Tigers (32-35) will be out to avoid the sweep when they host the Washington Nationals (32-35) to complete a three-game series. Sportsbooks have listed the Tigers as -152 favorites for the series finale, while the Nationals are +128...

Orioles vs. Braves Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats & Best Bets – Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Baltimore Orioles (45-22) and Atlanta Braves (35-30) meet Thursday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, starting at 1:05 PM ET on BSSO. The Orioles are -114 moneyline favorites for the contest, however, the Braves are favored against the spread...

Yankees vs. Royals Probable Starting Pitchers – June 13

The New York Yankees (49-21) look to add to a four-game winning streak as they visit the Kansas City Royals (39-30) at 2:10 PM ET on Thursday.This contest's pitching matchup is set, as the Yankees will send Nestor Cortes Jr....

Orioles vs. Braves Probable Starting Pitchers – June 13

The Atlanta Braves (35-30), who lost their previous five games, face the Baltimore Orioles (45-22) at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Thursday. First pitch is at 1:05 PM ET.The Orioles will call on Cole Irvin (6-2) against the Braves...

Cardinals vs. Pirates Probable Starting Pitchers – June 13

The Pittsburgh Pirates (32-35) go on the road at Busch Stadium against the St. Louis Cardinals (32-34) at 2:15 PM ET on Thursday.The probable starters are Lance Lynn (2-3) for the Cardinals and Mitch Keller (8-3) for the Pirates.Cardinals vs....

more cubs news