Top offseason questions: What will Cubs do in left field in 2021?
With the Cubs facing a pivotal winter, we’re tackling the biggest questions facing Jed Hoyer’s front office. Reporters Bruce Levine and Tony Andracki provide their perspective.
What do the Cubs do with left field now that Kyle Schwarber has been non-tendered?
It doesn’t appear that the minor league system is ready to graduate some of their top players like Brennen Davis. I don’t think he’s quite ready yet. So piecing together trades and signings for younger players that are ready to be controllable by the Cubs for the future and maybe a couple veterans along the way to fill that hole for a 162-game season (if that’s what they play).
Right now, the Cubs only have two full-time outfielders on their 40-man roster so from that perspective, they have a lot of work to do. They should be out there in free agency and we’ll have to see what Hoyer does as far as making deals.
Keep your eye on Nico Hoerner, who’s being trained as the next Ben Zobrist. He’s shown the ability to play in the outfield. Will he get more reps in spring training there and be that super utility guy that could play everywhere or will he play mostly second base?
If, indeed, Kris Bryant does not get traded, his ability to move to the outfield and allow David Bote to play on a more regular basis at third base gives the Cubs another option.
The really interesting debate is if Ian Happ is the center fielder of the future. Happ has shown himself capable of playing left field at a high level whereas in center field, the metrics say he’s been about average defensively throughout his career. The Cubs could potentially have a very, very good defensive outfield if they move Happ to left and acquire a prototypical centerfielder with good range. So there’s flexibility there.
From the Cubs’ perspective, an ideal situation to replace Schwarber would be a veteran like Michael Brantley. He gives the Cubs exactly what they need as they reshape their offense — a high-contact approach able to provide professional at-bats on a daily basis. But I’m also curious what his market will end up at — he’s been very good his last couple years in Houston (.309 AVG, .867 OPS).
I could see the Cubs bringing back a guy like Cameron Maybin, a veteran who did well and was a good fit in the clubhouse last year in Chicago. And if the Cubs want the best defensive option in center field, Billy Hamilton is as good as they come in terms of range and speed, though his offense leaves something to be desired. The Cubs welcoming back Maybin or Hamilton as a role player could help address the outfield need, even if they likely wouldn’t be everyday players.