Though much of the winter will be spent upgrading their pitching staff, both in the rotation and the bullpen, the two other major needs for the Chicago Cubs are at third base and center field.
Third base looks like it could be settled in the very near future. Ian Stewart will probably be brought back, albeit on a minor league deal, or they could look at Jeff Keppinger, who they’ve reportedly been hot after this offseason, even after he suffered a leg injury.
Center field remains a bigger question, though. The options are quite limited, and with the exception of that confusing Michael Bourn rumor, there haven’t been too many names thrown out in connection to the Cubs. Brett Jackson will be back in Iowa to start the year, and will likely replace either Alfonso Soriano or David DeJesus in one of the corners at some point, if he’s not traded first.
But Friday’s non-tender deadline presented the Cubs with a couple of additional options, if they choose not to go all-in on a guy like Bourn or try and trade for a center fielder like Coco Crisp.
Both Andres Torres and Ryan Sweeney were non-tendered by their respective clubs. And both would present the Cubs with the stopgap options that they covet until their younger prospects are eventually ready to make the jump to the bigs.
Torres has only been a big league regular for the past few seasons, but you know what you’re going to get out of the 35-year-old. He adds some nice defense to the mix, but his bat is inconsistent. He’ll add a few swipes to the equation, but it’s tough to overlook the .230 average.
Sweeney is an intriguing option. He hasn’t lived up to his status as a top prospect, but is a versatile outfielder, capable of playing both in the corners and in center. He’s coming off of a down year with the Boston Red Sox, health and performance-wise, but is capable of getting on base, though he doesn’t bring much in terms of power numbers.
None of the options, outside of Bourn, are extremely attractive. Crisp might end up being the best option, if the Cubs are able to swing a deal to bring him in. But at least the non-tender deadline brought a couple of extra options that were not available before on a razor-thin market.