As I mentioned yesterday upon the official departure of Jason Kipnis, if the Cubs are still set on adding a lefty bat to their second base mix, the pickins in free agency have become exceedingly slip. You could hope that Neil Walker isn’t done. You could hope that someone like Jake Lamb could handle second base.
Or, most plausibly, you could hope for a bounce-back from Eric Sogard, to something approximating a solid bench bat.
I mention Sogard again today, because he draws a comment from The Athletic’s Cubs duo of Patrick Mooney and Sahadev Sharma with respect to the Cubs’ plans at second base:
The Cubs didn’t aggressively pursue a reunion with Jason Kipnis, who announced Monday that he signed a minor-league deal with the Braves that likely gave him a reasonable level of confidence in making the Opening Day roster. The Cubs have kept Eric Sogard on their radar for years as a left-handed hitter who can play all over the infield, and that interest carried into this offseason. Sogard remains a free agent, but he has played for three different teams over the last two seasons without the Cubs actually following through and acquiring him.
Sogard, 34, has had a few seasons of being a quality bench option in his career – and a quality starting-caliber season in 2019, but his is almost certainly not the profile of an impactful addition:
Historically, Sogard has been a high-contact hitter who works good at bats, takes his walks, runs the bases well, and hits for a meh average with no power. He’s made a nice long career out of being a guy who is right on that border of being a sure-fire good bench option on any team. He’s not quite that. But he has had years where he could clearly be that, and he’s overall hit passably against righties in his career – .249/.316/.339, 81 wRC+ – if you’re looking for a decent glove, good baserunner, bench type.
Before you start getting optimistic and throw out 2020 and say he was actually quite good in his last normal season, let me note that almost all of his offensive bump in 2019 came from a massive uptick in kinda flukey homers at Rogers Centre in Toronto. I don’t know that 2019 tells us much about what you could actually expect from a guy who has otherwise not been a real source of power, and will turn 35 in May.
At most, you’d be looking at Sogard to be a periodic starter against righties, play solid defense, run the bases well, put the ball in play, and not kill you overall at the plate.
Internally, the Cubs could go with a rotation of Nico Hoerner (but he may need development time at AAA), David Bote (but he might be best off the bench), Ildemaro Vargas (but he has never really hit consistently at the big league level), and/or Matt Duffy (it’s not clear whether he can play second base or bounce back at the plate). As the parentheticals indicated, I don’t love any of those options, but I also don’t love bringing in another meh option just to do it. Maybe Sogard bounces back and helps in a platoon, or maybe he doesn’t, and winds up blocking an opportunity for Bote or Vargas to break out.
That said, it wouldn’t hurt to get a guy like Sogard to Spring Training. From there, you get hands-on, eyes-on, and you can maybe make a little better evaluation of how you want to proceed at the position to open the season. There’s also the fact that Sogard can play almost any position in a bench role if it came to that. He’s primarily a 2B/3B, but he’s also seen time at shortstop and the corner outfield spots in the last two years.