Chicago Cubs Should Focus On Center Field Trade Market

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With a thin free agent market, the Chicago Cubs should pursue a center fielder via trade.

The market for center field free agents is thin.

Sure Cody Bellinger, Kevin Kiermaier and Brandon Nimmo are all viable options, but each comes with their own flaws.

2019 NL MVP Bellinger has an OPS of .611 over his last 900 plate appearances. His career might already be over at age-27. His pedigree will also command a larger price tag than he deserves.

Whoever pays Bellinger will be paying for past performance, not future success, and he probably won’t come cheap.

Kiermaier carries a similar issue with him. His best days are behind him. After posting a minimum of 10 DRS every year of his Major League career, his defense fell off dramatically in 2022 to just two defensive runs saved.

He’s still an amazing defender who could be a victim of small sample size. But Kiermaier has a loaded injury history. Only once in his 10-year career has he played a full season.

Nimmo, on the other hand, is a solid player all around. If the Chicago Cubs somehow miss out on one of the Big Four shortstops, he could be a backup option for a big splash in free agency.

He’s a career -2 DRS player. And Nimmo’s good enough not to make a fool of himself in center field, while his .385 career OBP makes him a perfect candidate for leadoff. Unfortunately he also carries the injury bug along with one other hidden dagger.

Nimmo rejected the New York Mets’ qualifying offer, meaning the Cubs would have to give up a second round draft pick to sign him. And for a team that’s currently retooling, forfeiting that second round pick for a non-superstar player is a problem.

Thus, the Cubs should focus their attention on the trade market.

One name stands out more than others as a potential target.

Enrique Hernández.

The current Boston Red Sox center fielder is one of three top-market center fielders on the final year of his deal.

Not only has he been a productive player when healthy over the past several seasons, but the Red Sox are in a position to offload him. With former-top prospect Jarren Duran seemingly ready to transition to a more full time role in 2023, the Red Sox shouldn’t be married to Hernández.

On a one-year deal he would bridge the gap between the Cubs current hodgepodge of center fielders, and the quickly rising bats of Brennan Davis and Pete-Crow Armstrong.

The Cubs wouldn’t have to milk their farm system for talent either. As Hernández is coming off an injury-riddled 2022 with a .629 OPS, he’s the perfect candidate for a change of scenery on a team with lower expectations.

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