Last year, the Cubs signed Scott Hairston to a deal that I criticized. I thought, instead, they should have grabbed Ryan Raburn, who had a horrendous 2012 season for the Tigers. Raburn, though, had pretty good years from 2009-2011 for Detroit, posting a combined .274/.329/.473 line with an OPS+ of 113 those three years.
Raburn had a monster season for the Indians (.272/.357/.543 with 16 home runs in just 243 at-bats) and helped them reach the wild-card game (not alone, of course, but he surely was a big positive for them). He made just $1 million in 2013, but his great year got him a two-year, $4.75 million deal for 2014 and 2015 with a $3 million team option for 2016.
Obviously, signing Raburn instead of Hairston would not have turned the 2013 Cubs into a playoff team. But Raburn's versatility -- he can play second base and third base -- would have helped a Cubs offense that had trouble at several positions.
Raburn's not available, but could the Cubs find someone like this to fill a need in 2014?
Here's one player whose name I've heard mentioned in a couple of places, and it surely would be worth a small contract -- say, $1 million -- to bring him on board. My choice? Casey McGehee. McGehee is 31 and spent 2013 in Japan, where he hit .306/.383/.538 with 24 home runs in 120 games (493 PA) for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (now there's a team name!), playing mostly third base. There's been talk he's interested in returning to MLB.
Granted, McGehee's performance in MLB had declined since his excellent 2010 season for the Brewers, which is why he wound up in NPB in the first place. But if he's healthy, I'd surely rather have him at third base than Donnie Murphy, who's really a utility player. McGehee could also back up Anthony Rizzo at first base; the Cubs really don't have a true backup first baseman (and after Cody Ransom was let go, they didn't have any backup first baseman). Maybe using him in a part-time way, the way the Tribe used Raburn, would make him a good "super-sub."
Obviously, signing McGehee is not the be-all and end-all of moves the Cubs should make, nor is this any sort of "savior" move. But it would be, in my view, a low-cost, low-risk, possible high-reward signing that could help the team offensively. And, if he does, it might make up, at least a little, for Jim Hendry letting him go for nothing after the 2008 season. (That's a 2008 photo-day shot of McGehee from Cubs spring- training at the top of this post.)
Let me make it further clear that this isn't the only guy I want the Cubs to sign, nor is he the only possible 2014 version of Ryan Raburn. Maybe you have another idea for this year's Raburn. Leave your thoughts in the comments.