The Cubs have agreed to exactly one MLB contract this winter, and that it’s still pending results of a physical as of post time, so they’ve still got to fill out the roster one way or another. And since they appear to be following the Brewers’ approach of rostering as many second basemen as possible, that could mean further shoring up the keystone. So despite having Nico Hoerner, Daniel Descalso, David Bote, Ian Happ, and Robel Garcia at their disposal, the Cubs reportedly “continue to have interest” in Scooter Gennett.
Chicago Cubs continue to have interest in free agent second baseman Scooter Gennett.
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) January 27, 2020
Better known to some in the online community as Grown Man Named Scooter, Gennett experienced a breakout in Cincinnati after being waived by the Brewers in 2017. Over the course of two seasons, he slashed .303/.351/.508 with 50 homers — including four in one game against the Cardinals on June 6, 2017 — and a 124 wRC+ that ranked third among all second baseman in that time. Not bad.
Gennett’s defense at second, on the other hand, left a bit to be desired. His -1.6 UZR/150 and 1.0 FanGraphs rating ranked 13th among 17 qualified players and his peripheral defensive stats all graded out negatively. That doesn’t project well moving forward, as Gennett will turn 30 in May and is coming off of a season that saw him limited to 42 games with a severely strained groin and poor production.
Between the injury and a trade to San Francisco, Gennett never really got going and saw his strikeout rate skyrocket to nearly 30% on the season. His walk rate, never a strength, fell to a 1.4% that ranked dead last in all of MLB in 2019 (min. 100 PAs). But his contact and strikeout rates had previously been decent and his 6.7 fWAR over those two big campaigns in Cincy is a big tally.
It’s possible that the Cubs’ interest is limited to bringing Gennett in on a minor-league deal, but it’s still noteworthy given the list of names above. Well, maybe just one of the names above. Adding another veteran, even if it’s in a projected bench role, would indicated that the team wants Hoerner to spend more time in Iowa working on his plate approach.
That was a suggestion made at Cubs Convention by Matt Dorey, senior director of player development, who said Hoerner needed to figure out how to grind out at-bats with two strikes. Dorey also said that, while Hoerner has the skills to bat leadoff and maybe even play center field, it will take some time before their top-ranked prospect is ready for either.
Another possibility, and I’m sure most fans will find this to be a far more amenable option, is the Cubs could be hedging their bets in case Descalso doesn’t bounce back. Though he was actually a perfectly acceptable depth infielder through the first month-plus of last season, an ankle injury in early May completely wrecked Descalso’s season. Why he wasn’t placed on the IL prior to late July is a mystery not even Robert Stack could have solved.
The final possibility here is that this is Theo Epstein’s way of striking back against the team that just signed Nicholas Castellanos. I can just imagine Epstein tenting his fingers and muttering under his breath, “I see your Big Nick Energy and raise you a guy who got his nickname when, as a child, he told a police officer his name was Scooter from Muppet Babies.”