In a move that was first reported by Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports, the Chicago Cubs have re-signed outfielder Ryan Sweeney to a two year contract, paying him $1.5 million in both 2014 and 2015. There is also a $2.5 million team option for 2016. Obviously, this is not the kind of move to put the Cubs over the top, but it is a signing that I am completely in favor of.
The Cubs signed Sweeney as a minor league free-agent at the beginning of the 2013 after he was let go by the Boston Red Sox. Being let go by Boston had more to do with a numbers crunch than his ability as a player. So, while he was technically a minor league free agent last season, he is a much better player than most guys who get those contracts. There simply were not enough roster spots to go around in Boston, and the Cubs were able to get a good player with zero risk involved.
The 28-year-old Sweeney spent the first month of the season killing it in Triple-A before being called up to the big leagues. He had a nice season for Chicago in a part time role hitting .266/.324/.448 and playing solid defense all over the outfield. Sweeney seemed to get a little bit unlucky this season, as his BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) was .288. In past seasons, his BABIP was usually in the .320 range, which tells us that Sweeney normally does a good job getting on base when he makes contact, and you can expect that to creep up to his career average in the future, meaning more hits for Sweeney are likely to come.
This is not a huge signing by any means, but it is nice to see the Cubs bring back a talented and versatile player to add to the mix at such an inexpensive price. Sweeney is an athletic guy, has a career batting average of .278, and plays all three outfield positions very nicely. He will probably come off of the bench for the duration of this contract, but there are few guys who I would rather have in that role. Not to mention, he is a nice option if somebody like Junior Lake falters early next season and the Cubs need an outfielder to step in as an everyday starter. This is another solid, under-the-radar signing by Theo Epstein and the rest of the Cubs’ front office.