The Cubs' outfield has been extremely expensive over the past couple of years, and the team has failed to get its money’s worth as they sign free agent after free agent to big contracts without much, if any, improvement.
Although getting rid of Milton Bradley was a great move and took money off the payroll, the Cubs still have a lot of money tied up in two out of the three outfield spots, and they need to start seeing some production from those corner outfielders.
They did make a move to bring in a center fielder coming off of a career year, and they will need him to produce if they want to be competitive. But he isn’t the only guy that they have their hopes high on, with another free agent outfielder who will back up two out of the three outfield spots and battle for playing time.
Here is a look at the outfield:
LF: Alfonso Soriano
CF: Marlon Byrd
RF: Kosuke Fukudome
Alfonso Soriano comes at the highest price tag, and he has had his moments. He’s hit at least 20 home runs every year he has been with the Cubs, but his total has decreased every year as has his batting average. This season, however, he should be batting sixth all season, which is where he thrived last year.
However, he will need to turn it around a lot this season after having career lows in average, runs, and RBI in seasons where he played at least 50 games. However, the lows in hitting were slightly surprising as he did a better job of making contact when he swung last season—the ball just made its way to a defensive player's glove more often than not.
At the other corner outfield position, Kosuke Fukudome has been a disappointment, especially after he started off so well in his rookie season with the Cubs. Fukudome did a good job of being a more patient hitter while making the hits he did get count.
Although his batting average was nearly identical both seasons, Fukudome took more walks, increased his BB/K ratio, and decreased the amount of times that he swung at pitches outside the zone.
But Fukudome will need to do a better job at the plate this season and be more productive if he wants to prove he is worth the big money the Cubs are throwing at him.
Fukudome played well when he played right field, and playing there all season should give him stability defensively. The confidence from improved defensive play could give him more confidence at the plate as well.
Marlon Byrd had a career year last season, and he was rewarded with a sizeable contract. But that could work against him in the eyes of the Cubbie faithful. Although he hit 20 home runs and 89 RBI last season, he has never come close to those numbers in any other season of his career.
To expect stats like that would be foolish, and he needs to hope that fans aren’t expecting him to repeat those numbers. Byrd is a good center fielder and he should give the Cubs some stability at that position.
The Cubs also signed utility outfielder Xavier Nady over the winter, and he should see playing time at both right and left field. Expect him to even battle for a starting spot in right field against Fukudome, as Nady has been better throughout his career than Fukudome has been in his time in the MLB.
Expect Tyler Colvin to also see some time in center field. Colvin has had a great spring so far; he robbed Ryan Braun of a home run, he has been batting over .500, and he also has six RBI.
The Cubs have a lot of money tied up in the outfield, and they haven’t had too much production. If they don’t get any improvements this season, it could be another season where tens of millions of dollars were spent for below average play, offensively and defensively.
But maybe Soriano, Fukudome, and Byrd can put together a great season, and we can see some bang for our bucks.
I’m Joe W.