Now that Jorge Soler has been subtracted from the Cubs’ roster in the deal for Wade Davis, where does that leave the rest of the outfielders on the squad?
I’m going to take a look at this deal from both sides; I’ll have another article later on the bullpen setup with Davis now the closer.
Soler seemed superfluous with the return of Kyle Schwarber, who I would expect to be the primary left fielder in 2017. Neither one is that great defensively and the return of Schwarber’s bat essentially replaces, if not upgrades, Soler’s production.
At this time, it would appear that Jon Jay and Albert Almora Jr. will platoon in center field, allowing Almora to break in slowly in his first full big-league season. Almora could also wind up entering games for defense in the late innings in left field in place of Schwarber, so he’ll likely get more playing time than a straight-platoon guy would.
Jason Heyward, of course, returns to play right field. As has been noted many times, if Heyward can return to his level of offensive performance prior to 2016, that’d almost be like signing another good free-agent hitter.
That leaves Matt Szczur as all-purpose backup to all three outfield positions and as a good bench bat. There have been rumors that teams have inquired about Szczur, but he proved himself a very good bench player in 2016 and I’d like to see him stay
The Cubs don’t really need any other outfielders, since Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist can play there, and I’d assume they would from time to time in order to get Javier Baez playing time all around the infield. In 2016, Joe Maddon preached getting regulars rest in order to have them fresh for October. That worked out pretty well, I’d say, and I’d expect Maddon to make even more use of a versatile roster in 2017.
The Cubs’ outfield, then, seems set for 2017: Schwarber, Jay, Almora, Heyward and Szczur. In fact, most of the rest of the position players are likely set, too. Infielders Baez, Bryant, Zobrist, Addison Russell and Anthony Rizzo all return, as do catchers Willson Contreras and Miguel Montero (and Contreras can also play left field, too, if needed). That’s 12 position players, so there’d be one more bench spot. Last year that was filled by Tommy La Stella. I suppose he could return, but Jeimer Candelario could fill that spot, too.
And it’s still not outside the realm of possibility that Dexter Fowler could return. The roster is versatile enough that there’d still be enough playing time for everyone I’ve mentioned here.
I’ll have that look at the Cubs bullpen with Davis coming up at 1 p.m. CT.