After a first-place finish in the NL Central this past season with a 34-26 record, the Chicago Cubs have tendered a contract to Kris Bryant, keeping the slugger around for at least the near future. Bryant hit only .206 with four home runs in 34 games but has two seasons with at least 30 home runs.
While the offer to Kris Bryant was a good move, there is much to question about the Chicago Cubs decision not to tender a contract to left fielder Kyle Schwarber. The soon-to-be 28-year-old Schwarber was scheduled to earn around USD8 million and will be a free agent after being in a Cubs’ uniform since 2015. Schwarber hit only .188 with 11 home runs in 59 games last season despite he has been a power threat for the last several seasons. He belted 38 home runs in 2019 and another 56 combined in 2017 and 2018. While his batting average is always on the low side, Schwarber’s power threat is undeniable and not re-signing him leaves somewhat of a void in the outfield.
Looking at ESPN’s depth chart for the Chicago Cubs and you’ll see the name Ian Happ as the starter in both left field and center field, with starting third baseman Kris Bryant as the backup in left field and Jason Heyward, the starting right fielder to back up in center. Clearly that is a major problem. Happ hit .258 with 12 home runs last season and can play all the outfield positions, but not at the same time. Heyward is still a solid offensive threat, but at age 31 is problem near the end of his prime years.
The only other outfielder listed on the depth chart is Nico Hoerner, a two-year MLB veteran who hit just .222 with no home runs in 108 at-bats last season. The question is not only whether or not the Chicago Cubs will look for another outfielder, but also where this outfielder will come from. They could opt to look in their minor league system, trade or free agent pool. How much money the organization is willing to dish out in free agency is also in question. Perhaps the Cubs think Hoerner can blossom into a starter? That seems unlikely. Nevertheless, the Chicago Cubs need to find a competent replacement for Schwarber or they may regret not tending an offer to one of their best pure power hitters.