Without a doubt, Marlon Byrd was the heart soul of the team last year. He led by example, and had a tremendous first year with the Cubs. As he hit .293 with 53 extra base hits and had 66 RBIs to go along with 84 runs scored. It was his hustle and will that did not go unnoticed by fans and coaches. Even though it was a losing season last year, it was Byrd that gave a glimmering of hope for the next year.
Without any home runs, and only five RBIs thus far this season, he is off to a slow start. He has a deceiving average at .295, even though it doesn’t seem like he is getting any hits. Already grounding into four double plays, and striking out 21 times, he is on pace to surpass his season highs, both coming from last year.
Maybe now would be a good time to shop the center fielder around. He has enough value that would make teams interested, and it would allow the Cubs to possibly get a missing piece or some future prospects.
Some holes that can be filled via trade may be a starting pitcher, bullpen help, or a prototypical leadoff hitter that can be disruptive on the base paths. The starting pitchers have been atrocious thus far this season, and picking up another starter will allow the team to not have to use bullpen days until Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells get back.
A prototypical leadoff hitter would allow Fukudome to move down in the order, allowing him to possibly drive in more runs, as long as the mid-season slump isn’t starting already. Having this type of hitter at the top of your order will also allow him to steal as many bases as possible. Swiping that extra bag puts runners in scoring position, opens holes in the defense, and throws off the pitcher’s timing and gets in his head.
However, the void of a leadoff hitter may be filled by Byrd’s replacement. Brett Jackson is sitting in AA Tennessee just waiting for his chance to get up to the big team. He would easily be able to fill the leadoff spot with his 30 steals and .297 batting average from last year.
Imagine the lineup Chicago would be putting out every day. Brett Jackson leading off in center field at 22-years old, Darwin Barney batting and playing second at 25-years old, and of course Starlin Castro, the Cubs’ best hitter batting third and playing shortstop at just 21-years old. This is the start of a lineup that can do some major damage for over a decade.
The Chicago Cubs do not want to bring up Jackson before he is ready, but take a look at some of the younger players that have been brought up at such a young age. Starlin Castro and Elvis Andrus, both successful shortstops so far, and both brought up at the age of 20. He could be successful, or he could wind up like a Felix Pie or Corey Patterson. Either way, it might just be worth the risk to make such a big move while they can. Marlon Byrd is a fundamentally sound player that most teams would enjoy on their roster, but most teams also don’t have a top prospect waiting in the wings like Brett Jackson. The Cubs do, so maybe they should make an uncharacteristic splash.