Chicago Cubs: Turning It All Around, Part II (Outfield)

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Chicago Cubs: Turning It All Around, Part II (Outfield)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

This article is part two of a series of articles looking at the Cubs' not-so-distant future. To read part one, which looks at first and third base, follow this link .

The Cubs have five outfielders on their 25-man roster that could start for just about any team in major league baseball: Marlon Byrd, Tyler Colvin, Kosuke Fukudome, Xavier Nady, and Alfonso Soriano.

Although having depth isn't a bad thing, and is often what most teams are seeking to build, this organization can afford to part with some of their depth. In fact, it might be in their best interest to do so for both the short and long term.

 

Potential Moves

There are only two players to possibly trade away from this group this year: Kosuke Fukudome and Xavier Nady. Soriano might be tradeable in 2013, but that's probably the best case scenario.

Nady, who I began talking about in part one, is playing under a one year contract with about 1.7 million dollars due for the rest of the season. He's also getting the least amount of playing time, is having the worst offensive season of the bunch, and is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, making him the worst defensive option also.

In other words, he's the easiest player to move and the easiest to replace.

Fukudome is a good defensive outfielder who is due about 7.5 million dollars for the rest of this season and 13.5 million for 2011. He has a limited no-trade clause and is in the midst of another offensive swoon.

The Cubs would have to eat a significant portion of his contract to trade him, but he fills his role as a defensive outfielder and offensive threat (even if it isn't often fulfilled in the second half of the season) on a team with large salaries disappearing this offseason.

There's no need for the Cubs to be leveraged into a detrimental deal involving Fukudome, so they should still be able to get something of reasonable value in return for him.

As I said in part one, Brad Snyder and Sam Fuld would be the two most likely players to replace anyone in the outfield.

Conveniently, Snyder is in a similar mold to Nady (although he's left-handed) and Fuld is in a similar mold (with less power and more speed) to Fukudome, so the Cubs could theoretically replace either player without missing a beat.

 

Looking to the Future

Soriano, who would have easily held the title of biggest defensive liability in the outfield had you asked me earlier in the season, has not only bounced back off of his poor 2009 offensive season, but has become a serviceable outfielder recently.

He's 34 years old, has another four years left on his contract, is due 18 million dollars each year, has a full no-trade clause, and has a history of knee problems.

In other words, he's the most difficult player to move, no matter how well he does at the plate or in the field. In fact, that's probably as close to impossible as it gets for the next couple of seasons.

And then there's Tyler Colvin and Marlon Byrd.

Both have strong arms and can play good defense at any of the three outfield positions. They're also both aggressive hitters who can hit for good power, a decent batting average, and steal an occasional base.

Byrd, considered a great clubhouse presence, is 32 years old with a team-friendly contract through the next two seasons. Colvin is 24 years old and under team control for the next five offseasons.

Is there any person better suited to be Colvin's mentor for the next two years?

Even if Byrd loses a few steps before his final year with the Cubs, he could always swap positions with Colvin and hold down right field. Unless he completely forgets how to hit and field, he should be sticking around for awhile.

 

Back to the Future

The day is coming when Brett Jackson will find himself penciled into a lineup card at Wrigley Field. And it won't be the now-annual Road to Wrigley minor league game.

It's still a ways down the road, but it's coming soon enough. I guarantee it.

Recently promoted to Double-A Tennessee on June 27, the Cubs' 2009 first round pick has had himself quite the year so far. He has posted a slash line of .326/.426/.543 in 333 plate appearances, including eight triples and 15 stolen bases.

If he is on a similar track as third baseman Josh Vitters, he could be ready for a call up to the big leagues as soon as 2012 or, more realistically, 2013.

Looking at an ETA of 2013, Byrd's current contract will have expired and Soriano might be movable. It is completely within the realm of possibility that a roster spot will be available for Jackson to take as soon as he's ready.

There's plenty of time for the team to look into potential outfield starters to play alongside Colvin and Jackson, but they may not have to look too far.

Byrd will be a 35-year-old that might still be a viable option and Snyder and Fuld are both former top prospects that will be in their prime at age 31.

 

Not every position on the diamond has an immediate solution waiting in the wings like the outfield and corner infield positions do, though. Some are halfway to where they need to be and only need to find one guy to finish the job.

This organization does have some future options at one of these positions, though. But, with these options currently sitting at the lower levels of the minor leagues, some precautions might need to be taken to ensure the major league squad isn't left short-handed.

More immediate moves might help, but proper usage of team control might also benefit the long-term health of this roster.

To read part three, which covers the catchers and middle infielders, follow this link.

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