Don’t Look Now, But Chris Coghlan Is Just a Step Away from Rejoining Cubs

Though he’s seemingly been vanquished several times before, Chris Coghlan just keeps turning back up like a bad penny or the baddie in a slasher film. He’s certainly got a pretty ugly slash with AAA Iowa so far, starting out 0-for-13 and batting .188/.257/.313 with nine strikeouts through 34 plate appearances. But blessed as he his with an unprecedented concentration of gritichlorian particles, don’t be surprised at all when Coghlan’s name once again finds itself on Joe Maddon’s lineup card.

The 33-year-old outfielder has already resurrected his career twice with the Cubs, the first time after falling from Rookie of the Year grace with the Marlins. So poor was his production that Miami actually granted Coghlan his release rather than try to get anything in return. The Cubs picked him on a flyer ahead of the 2014 season, then watched as he rode good health and a better understanding of analytics to become the best fourth outfielder in baseball over the next two seasons.

His performance flagged a bit in 2015 and he became expendable when Dexter Fowler famously rode into 2016 spring training with a last-second surprise deal. A casualty of what had just become an overcrowded outfield, Coghlan was traded to Oakland, where he became the worst hitter in baseball from a statistical standpoint.

The Cubs picked him back up after the A’s had given up on him, parting with Arismendy Alcántara in the process. And wouldn’t you know it, there Coghlan was starting Game 1 of the 2016 World Series — which the Cubs won, in case you’d forgotten — over Jason Heyward, a man whose presence was more instrumental than Fowler’s in pushing Cogs out the previous spring.

With the Cubs needing to make room for younger players, Coghlan was allowed to seek gainful employment elsewhere after that championship season. The Phillies signed him to a minor league deal in February of 2017 and released him in March. The Blue Jays picked up but from there, but Coghlan hit a mere .200/.299/.267 in 88 plate appearances.

He did, however, make one of the most phenomenal plays you’ll ever see when he pulled of a flying dive-roll over Yadi Molina to avoid a play at the plate. It took me several viewings to actually believe it was the Chris Coghlan, and even now I remain a little skeptical.

That spectacular effort aside, Coghlan just didn’t offer the Jays enough value and they eventually designated him for assignment in August of last year. The lack of playing time and production left him without a job throughout the rest of the season and a shoulder surgery ruled him out of what was a slow enough offseason for younger, healthier players.

But the Cubs felt he still had some gas in the tank, which is why they brought him back to the organization just as the regular season was starting. While the big league team was opening in Miami, the former Cub twice over arrived in Mesa in something of a clandestine manner — one might say he was in-Cog-nito — to rehab and work his way back up the ladder.

I’m wondering if there might also be an organizational fascination with former players with the initials “CC,” since they recently brought pitcher Casey Coleman back into the fold. Maybe something to noodle on. Anyway, finally healthy enough to give it a real go once again, Coghlan was added to Iowa’s roster on June 30 after tuning up for a few game in the Arizona Rookie League.

“This organization feels like home to me,” Coghlan told Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register in early July. “Obviously, winning a World Series and being a part of that, being one of the 25 guys to do that, is forever special. I’ve always felt respected in this organization and there’s a lot of organizations that don’t respect the players. And I think that goes a long way for me.”

The Cubs have certainly shown Coghlan plenty of respect, and his production for them over the years bears that out. His .792 OPS with Chicago is 61 points above his career average and he’s put up 3.4 WAR in 321 games for the Cubs. That’s basically a 1.5 WAR per full season, which is pretty good for a guy who has posted a combined -3.2 WAR over 480 with three other teams.

He’s been around the block more than enough times to understand the deal, so he’s got no sense of entitlement from his past couple stints with the Cubs. And he knows that in the club’s ideal scenario, he wouldn’t be needed at all.

“I’ve got to earn my keep just as much as everyone else,” Coghlan shared with Birch. “You either produce, or you don’t. You go home. So my plan is, I need to produce. I need to help this organization win, even if it’s at the triple-A level and they’ll make a decision based on what’s best for the big-league club.

“Hopefully they don’t need anybody, because that means everyone’s producing and everyone’s healthy. But the reality is that it never happens like that. It’s never how you planned. So, the great organizations have depth, and that’s why this organization is great and has depth in case of anything.”

He’s right, you know. Because of that, because the Cubs are going to need depth and because Coghlan has the grit they just can’t quit, I’m willing to bet you right now that we’ll see him added to the roster by at least September’s expansion. And you never know what could happen with an injury here or there.

It’s happening, folks, I’m just letting you know now so you can prepare yourselves accordingly.

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