At the moment, the starting outfield for the Chicago Cubs may be the worst in all of Major League Baseball. If the season started today the outfielders on the field for the Cubs would be Nate Schierholtz, Ryan Sweeney and Junior Lake. Schierholtz had a very good 2013 season and the other two show some nice potential, but make no mistake about it; the Cubs need to upgrade the outfield.
Lake was an exciting spark for the Cubs last season, but he is very undisciplined at the plate. He simply needs more time in the minors to become a more patient hitter. Sweeney is a solid player that would be a welcomed addition to any team, but with a .385 slugging percentage in his eight-year career he is much more valuable as a 4th or 5th outfielder as opposed to being the starting center-fielder.
There are a few interesting options in free agency. Nate McLouth and Franklin Gutierrez would make for interesting flyer options, but to count on them as guaranteed starters may not be the best idea. Curtis Granderson would be very interesting at the right price, but he will be 33 at the beginning of next season. Any free agent outfielder that the Cubs would bring in would be nothing more than a stopgap.
The Cubs are simply not in a position to win right now, and the front office has made it clear that they are looking at the future with any move that would be made. There is one guy that appears to be available, would fill their need in the outfield right now, and would easily fit into their future plans. That player is Austin Jackson of the Detroit Tigers.
There have been whispers the past couple of weeks that the Tigers are looking to make their 26-year-old center fielder available. While I am sure he is not going to come cheap, I think the Cubs would be crazy not to at least see what the Tigers are looking to receive in a trade. Jackson is a career .278/.344/.416 hitter that has plus speed and plays good defense in the outfield. Strikeouts will always be a concern with Jackson, but he has done much better in that department recently.
The Cubs have some nice offensive prospects in their system, and many scouts expect them to be very competitive in the not so distant future. One thing that they do lack is top of the order talent. Most of their best prospects are middle of the order sluggers. A young and successful lead-off hitter would be a huge addition to this team.
It is unclear what the Tigers would want in a trade for Jackson, but if he really is available I am sure the Cubs will make a fair offer. It is not every day that you can acquire a 26-year-old player with a nice skill set and a proven MLB track record. When that opportunity does arise you must be willing to take a chance.