With all of the options the Chicago Cubs have in the outfield, it comes as no surprise that Nate Schierholtz has been the topic of trade rumors this spring.
2014 is the last year the Cubs have control of Schierholtz, and with waves of prospect reinforcements preparing to make their big league debut in the next year or two, Schierholtz’ days in Chicago are numbered. If one thing is certain about the new Cubs regime, it is that they will extract every last ounce of value from each of their assets, and this all but guarantees that Schierholtz will be traded at some point this season.
The best-case scenario from the Cubs’ point of view is to trade Schierholtz as soon as possible, allowing Justin Ruggiano, Junior Lake and Ryan Sweeney to see regular at-bats. Ruggiano and Sweeney have never seen a full season’s worth of at-bats and may still provide value to a team as an everyday outfielder.
Just as the Cubs did with Paul Maholm and Scott Feldman, they are using the same strategy with their outfield by taking undervalued assets and allowing those players the chance to prove themselves as everyday big league starters.
Schierholtz proved himself to be more than capable in right field, hitting 21 home runs with a .219 ISO in 503 plate appearances last year. With Schierholtz set to become a free agent following the 2014 season, now is the time for the Cubs to cash in and repeat the cycle all over again with Sweeney and Ruggiano.
Until Schierholtz is traded, the Cubs will have an outfield that can maximize the platoon advantage and provide manager Rick Renteria with plenty of options for keeping his players fresh and productive. For Cubs fans, it’s hard to root for a valuable player to be traded, but in this case it’s simply in the best interest of the team to extract whatever value they can with prospects such as Jorge Soler, Albert Almora and Kris Bryant potentially ready to take over the outfield in 2015.
In an ideal world, the Cubs’ use of platoons in the outfield will be one of several positive storylines that helps propel the team to a winning record and meaningful games being played in the second half of the season. If this is the case, it’s still very possible that the Cubs could trade Schierholtz, but only if they were certain that they could replace his production.
No matter what happens, trading Schierholtz means the Cubs are further replenishing the minor league system, while providing an opportunity for powerful prospects Soler and Bryant to make their much-awaited arrivals in Chicago.