Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Cubs still pursuing Floyd, other outfielders

Though it appears as though much of the Cubs' off-season activities are done, there are still a couple of questions that the Cubs are trying to answer before the start of the 2007 season. Outfielders such as Cliff Floyd, Darin Erstad, and Steve Finley still remain free-agents and can help solve the mystery of the Opening Day center fielder. The acquisition of any one of outfielders, however, does not give the Cubs an extra left-handed bat, as Jacque Jones would then likely be shipped away.

The best option so far, I believe, is moving Jones to center field. While his defense might be a little scary, Jones' bat will be tough to replace if he is taken out of the lineup; Jacque has hit 23 or more homers in each of the last three seasons and four of the last five. None of the free agent outfielders previously mentioned could match that kind of production next year.

I also wouldn't mind moving DeRosa to center field, because it would open the door to Ronny Cedeno, though that move would considerably weaken the offense.

I think that Felix Pie has an excellent shot at being the Opening Day center fielder in 2008, but still needs another year in the minor leagues. (Had Pie not battled injuries -- like everyone else in a Cubs' uniform -- he likely would've filled the void left by Corey Patterson.) What I found interesting is why the Cubs refused to find a stopgap center fielder for this season. Sure, Pierre signed a long-term deal with the Dodgers, but former Cub Kenny Lofton signed a one-year deal with Texas. Having an outfielder like Lofton surely would put to rest any controversies in center field.

What I do know is that the Cubs' Opening Day center fielder should not come as a surprise, if it comes from within. While teams often find surprises during Spring Training as the Cubs did with Sean Marshall last year, there are way too many options and no center fielders that are even close to major-league ready (except maybe Pie) in the farm system.

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