The Chicago Cubs are approaching the 2018 season with several question marks in their outfield. Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr. have shown a great deal of potential so far. Happ, a 22-year-old slashed .253/.328/.514 with 24 home runs and 68 RBI while playing an array of positions throughout the year. Almora Jr. slashed .298/.338/.445, striking out only 53 times in 132 games. The question is, can these young studs live up to the hype as they head into their sophomore season?
Kyle Schwarber had a very disappointing season last year, and was even sent down to the minors for a short stint to get his groove back. He slashed .211/.315/.467 but was still able to slug 30 homers despite his struggles. With his new workout regimen and diet, it seems that he is determined to show that he is not a bust. The question is still there, will this year be his breakout season?
Lastly, there is Jason Heyward. In 2016, he signed a lucrative eight-year, $184 million contract with Chicago, and has not necessarily produced the way that he should. In his tenure with the Cubs, he owns a slash line of .243/.315/.353 and has driven in just 108 runs in two seasons. He is an above average outfielder, but that does not make up for him underperforming at the plate. 2017 was a major improvement from his 2016 campaign, but will he return to hitting around .300 and swiping over 20 bags like he did in St. Louis?
With all of these unknowns, the Cubs could use another outfielder that they can count on for production. In case Happ or Almora Jr. are having rough seasons, or Schwarber does not pan out, another veteran outfielder like Heyward would help immensely.
Carlos Gonzalez is the answer
Surprisingly, Gonzalez has been rarely talked about this offseason. He garnered interest from some teams at the Winter Meetings, but other than that there has been no more activity. CarGo has an excellent track record of success, especially at the plate. Throughout his 10-year career, he has slashed .288/.346/.511. He has had six seasons with over 20 home runs, two with 35 or more, and one with 40. He averages a little over 70 RBI per year, and consistently hits above .275, aside from a few off years.
Gonzalez has shown unwavering power throughout his career, but is always underrated due to playing half of his games at Coors Field every year. In the 24 games that he has played in at Wrigley Field, he has hit .247, but also has nine home runs and an OPS of .868. Although this is a small sample size, it shows that CarGo can take his power to other ballparks besides Coors.
The main reason that he is such an enticing player to the Cubs is that he is cheap and short-term. He will not look to sign long-term coming off of the worst year of his career. He would benefit more by signing short-term to focus on rejuvenating his play before shooting for a big deal in 2018 free agency. With that being said, MLB Trade Rumors predicts CarGo taking a one year, $12 million contract.
Carlos Gonzalez is flying under the radar, but a lot of teams are interested because he's likely to sign a short-term deal to re-establish his value. #SFGiants, #Royals, #Athletics, #Rays and #BlueJays are among the teams believed to be keeping an eye on him.
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 12, 2017
With the Cubs currently pursuing Yu Darvish and looking to sign Bryce Harper in next years free agency, Gonzalez’s short-term, low-cost mind set fits in perfectly. They can sign him for one year and still have money to swipe Harper in 2018. Gonzalez will provide insurance for injuries and flexibility should the young players hit a sophomore slump. He also would make a perfect DH for interleague play and a pinch hitter for late in the game. If the Cubs can make a deal similar to Adrian Beltre’s one-year, $10 million contract with the Red Sox in 2010, there is no reason to not go after Gonzalez.
The last thing the Cubs need in 2018 is to have their outfield crumble. Their focus should primarily be on the pitching staff, as they have lost key players in that department and will have to get used to a new rotation. That is why they need to sign Gonzalez. A change of landscape would certainly help him in returning to being one of the most powerful hitters in the game. He could be a key player that the Cubs use down the road should they make another World Series run.