According to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune , the Chicago Cubs remain in the market for a right-handed hitter to fill their fourth outfield role. Sullivan gives two names of players upon whom Chicago GM Jim Hendry will keep close tabs over the next month. One is 2008-'09 Cub Reed Johnson; the other is free-agent outfielder Xavier Nady.
Of these, Nady is the more intriguing option. Though both men battled injury last season (Nady played just seven games), Nady has a longer track record of productive mashing of left-handed pitchers. Against southpaws, Johnson has an impressive .841 career OPS. Nady, however, bests him with an .854 mark. Nady is also two years Johnson's junior.
Johnson, who can play center field in a pinch, is the superior defender, but neither shines with the leather. The ability to play center probably isn't a priority, with Marlon Byrd on board to play that position every day; Byrd bats right-handed. Sam Fuld, who bats left-handed, is the top defensive option on Chicago's outfield bench. Johnson also has a slight edge in speed, but again, neither excels in that area.
As far as fitting into their expected roles for the North Siders, Nady may have the advantage. Either man would be expected to serve as a platoon partner to starting right fielder Kosuke Fukudome. In that capacity, Nady could slide comfortably into the fifth spot in the order against left-handed hurlers. That would allow Chicago to bat Byrd or Jeff Baker second, and give them the third bona fide power bat they need against lefties.
Johnson would bat second against left-handers, with Ryan Theriot sliding into the leadoff spot on those days. That solution is tolerable, but not preferable to Baker in that role, with Nady occupying the fifth slot.
Nady and Johnson likely will command very similar prices, with Nady's superior skills making up for Johnson's better durability. Neither seems to be in Chicago's fiscal wheelhouse at present, but both should begin to back off earlier monetary demands as Spring Training draws near.
Johnson brings intangibles, experience, and a sense of continuity to an often tumultuous clubhouse. Nady, though a good teammate by all accounts, has little experience with competitive teams and even less as a role player and veteran presence. Once again, though, Nady can rake when healthy.
Chicago can't go wrong by bringing aboard either man, but if Hendry and manager Lou Piniella are serious about making a championship bid in 2010, Nady is the impact player that best fits the mold.