Who Will Play Center Field For The 2013 Cubs?

Jim Rogash

The Cubs had an offensive black hole in center field for most of 2012. They need someone to fill the spot. Fortunately, there are two affordable free agents who could do just that.

The Cubs need, among other things, a center fielder next season. Brett Jackson has already been told he'll be starting 2013 at Triple-A Iowa. I suppose there's a possibility he'd have a strong spring training and make the team, but there's no way Theo and Jed are going to go into spring training thinking that. They're going to want to bring someone in, likely through free agency.

Fortunately, there are two free agents out there who can play a competent center field (or right field, with David DeJesus playing center again, as he did much of 2012), hit a little, and have postseason experience.

Angel Pagan just finished the best year of his career for the World Series champion Giants. We are familiar with him; he played for the Cubs as a part-time outfielder in 2006 and 2007. Pagan has intestinal issues (Crohn's Disease, which put him on the DL while with the Cubs, and which he still has to battle), but that didn't stop him from hitting .288/.338/.440, leading the league in triples with 15, posting an OPS+ of 121, stealing 29 bases and playing a good center field. He's a switch-hitter, which could help with lineup construction.

Pagan made $4.85 million in 2012. He's 31. I'm thinking he could he had on a two-year, $14 million deal, perhaps a bit more than that. That's not outrageous in this market, and after DeJesus (presumably) leaves the Cubs following 2013, if Jackson is ready, Pagan is still around playing right field in 2014.

Cody Ross was part of the 2010 Giants World Series title team; in fact, he had an amazing postseason for them, hitting .294/.390/.686 with five home runs in 51 at-bats. After a more-or-less average 2011, the Giants let him go to free agency; signing with the Red Sox for 2012, Ross hit .267/.326/.481 with 34 doubles and 22 home runs and an OPS+ of 113. He played mostly right field for Boston, and hasn't had his primary position be center field since 2010. Again, if the Cubs signed Ross, he could play right field with DeJesus in center.

Ross made $6.3 million for the Giants in 2011, but had to settle for a one-year, $3 million contract with the Red Sox for 2012. He could probably be had for less than Pagan -- he's one year older (will turn 32 next month), and not quite as productive. Let's say two years, $12 million -- again, not an expensive deal for someone who'd be a stopgap.

Either of these players would provide decent enough offense to be a significant upgrade over what the Cubs put in center field in 2012. Cubs center fielders hit .230/.303/.337 with nine home runs in 2012, and that includes 45 games of DeJesus hitting .285/.355/.417 while starting at that position. (I could have, and you can if you want, calculate what Cubs center fielders other than DeJesus hit in 2012. Given those sets of numbers, I don't think you want to.)

I'd like to see Theo & Jed target one of these men to play for the 2013 Cubs; Pagan's the better player at this stage of their respective careers, Ross might come a little cheaper. Doing this would significantly improve the position.

Get it done.

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