Tyler Colvin, the Cubs' first-round draft pick in 2006, finally reached the Major Leagues as an emergency mid-September call-up this September. When center fielder Sam Fuld injured his wrist on a spectacular catch (okay, instant replay advocates, a spectacular trap), Reed Johnson was not yet ready to come off the disabled list, so the Cubs called upon Colvin, 24, to fill the space down the stretch of a highly disappointing season.
Though he amassed only 20 plate appearances and collected just three hits in six games, Colvin's defense (two stellar catches in the ninth inning during a 7-2 Cubs win in his second big-league game) and apparent nose for opportunities (he drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in his first career PA) impressed Cubs brass and fans alike.
I submit, however, that we may all have had stars in our eyes all along with Colvin. As the thirteenth overall pick in 2006, it is only natural for fans to believe that sooner or later, given health, this guy would start to produce. He might yet do so.
But in four Minor League seasons, Colvin has never managed even a .340 on-base percentage. He's shown glimpses of middling power, but has never shown even a slight ability to maintain or develop patience at the plate and simultaneously pile up extra-base hits. Even when Colvin was first drafted, scouts projected him as a Mark Grace-type hitter: doubles power, high average, smooth left-handed stroke without a ton of pop.
For Grace, that profile worked wonderfully. Crucially, however, Grace had the ability to take a walk on a regular basis, something Colvin simply does not. Further, Grace played stellar defense, which (despite the impacts of our availability heuristics) Colvin has not, at any level or in any of the three outfield spots.
Colvin, who has yet to record his first game at the AAA level and figures to start the season there, isn't ever going to be the answer to the Cubs' outfield problems. At this point, smarter money would be placed on Brett Jackson or Kyler Burke. Given those facts, the Cubs should look to move Colvin in a winter that finds Jim Hendry with many holes to fill, and little money with which to do so.
It isn't that Colvin can not contribute. But he would only do so for the 2010 Cubs as a slap-hitting, left-handed fourth outfielder with the ability to man center. For the same price (the Major League minimum, or thereabouts), Sam Fuld provides those things, but with superior defense and more patience and speed. Fuld would not garner as much in return as part of trade package, either, which makes moving Colvin the wiser option.
Dealing Colvin would also take pressure off Hendry and Lou Piniella to slot Colvin in as an everyday player, or at least a Major Leaguer. In return for Colvin alone, the Cubs might not get much, but he would make a very attractive addition to a package for, say, Roy Halladay or Curtis Granderson .
Including him would even help the Cubs level the playing field upon which they currently compete with the Yankees (among others) for Detroit's prized center fielder; New York has a Major League-ready replacement to offer, in Austin Jackson. If the Cubs can sell Detroit on Colvin, they could match that offer.
In any case, it is time for the management to come to grips with Colvin's reality, which is not that of a Grace-caliber star. If the difference between an Opening Day center fielder named Byrd and one named Granderson is only the security blanket of Colvin, the Cubs must cut the cord and send their 2006 first-round pick packing.