Outfielder Nate Schierholtz enjoyed a great year for the Chicago Cubs last season, establishing career highs in most offensive categories. However, the beginning of 2014 has been a different story, with Schierholtz’s value on the open market taking a hit with each passing day.
Schierholtz was a revelation in his first season with the Cubs in 2013, providing desperately-needed production with 21 homers and 68 RBIs. The journeyman outfielder’s previous highs in these categories were nine and 41 respectively, established back in 2011 with the San Francisco Giants. Of course, it is much easier to accumulate numbers when playing on a regular basis, and due to a lack of viable options in Chicago, Schierholtz was afforded the most extended playing time of his career, appearing in 137 games and collecting 462 at-bats.
While this production was impressive, Schierholtz had been signed to a one-year deal with the likely intention of moving him at the trade deadline last season, a tactic that the Cubs’ front office has used frequently the past few seasons. Despite the fact that his trade value was at its absolute peak, the Cubs were unable to move Schierholtz. There were presumably offers, but the Cubs brass apparently decided the return was not sufficient.
In January, the Cubs re-signed Schierholtz to a one-year contract worth $5 million, which is more than twice as much as he made in 2013. The Cubs were essentially starting the process over, with the idea of attempting to move Schierholtz again this year. While this sounds great in theory, the plan is contingent on Schierholtz duplicating last season’s production, or at least approaching it.
Unfortunately, this has not happened. The 30-year old Schierholtz is currently hitting a miserable .193 and has yet to homer in 109 at-bats. Due to several injuries in an already-bad outfield, the Cubs have been forced to play Schierholtz on a regular basis despite his struggles. The trade scenario is contingent on reestablishing a market for Schierholtz, so the Cubs will likely continue to run him out there every day, hoping the outfielder will snap out of his season-long funk.
In hindsight, the Cubs really should have pulled the trigger on a trade last season. Of course, we are not privy to any discussions that were conducted regarding Schierholtz, and it is certainly possible that he was not valued by other clubs as highly as it may have appeared.
However, his production last season was without question a career outlier, and his trade value will never again approach last year’s levels. There will be little room for Schierholtz in Chicago next season, so the Cubs will be forced to accept whatever they can get for the outfielder over the summer, which will likely not be much at all.