Cubs Prioritizing Veteran Relievers, Lefty-Batting Second Baseman
With the starting rotation ostensibly set now that Jake Arrieta is back in the fold, the Cubs are focusing their attention on two other areas of need. Bruce Levine tweeted Sunday morning that the Cubs were among numerous teams scouting 35-year-old righty David Robertson, who has not pitched since early 2019 due to Tommy John surgery. Robertson has spent most of his career with the Yankees, but is familiar with Chicago from two-plus seasons pitching for the White Sox.
Chicago Cubs one of numerous teams to have watched pitcher David Robertson side sessions last week.Adding veteran bullpen help a priority. Chicago hopes to add a left handed hitting infielder for platoon purposes at second base.
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) February 14, 2021
Levine added that getting a left-handed-hitting second baseman is also a priority, which is funny because Tommy La Stella and Kolten Wong were both available. As noted, however, the Cubs are looking at more of a platoon situation and may not have seen fit to commit either the money or more than one season to either player. There’s also the idea that a lefty batter would get a bulk of the plate appearances in a true platoon, so the Cubs are more likely looking for someone a little more on the cheap side who will not actually have an everyday role.
That may indicate a reunion with Jason Kipnis, who hit really well against righties (.272 average, 114 wRC+) in spite of an ugly penchant for strikeouts (34.3%). The 33-year-old might be willing to take another non-guaranteed deal to stay near home and he could help ease Nico Hoerner‘s transition should the Cubs opt to continue developing the versatile infielder in Chicago. Better yet, Kipnis could split time with David Bote and let Hoerner get more consistent at-bats in Iowa.
The downside of giving Kipnis regular reps at the keystone is that his defense leaves a bit to be desired for a team that appears to be prioritizing groundball induction from its rotation. That’s where Wong really would have made sense and I’m still trying to wrap my head around the logic there. It really had to have been a matter of cost and a multi-year commitment.
Back to the bullpen options, where it would seem Jed Hoyer is likewise looking to go short and frugal. Robertson might be looking at a minor league deal due to his recent history and his cutter/curve combo has consistently generated big strikeout numbers. He’s also got experience closing games, which could come in handy if Craig Kimbrel isn’t up to the challenge.
Then again, the competition for Robertson could have the Cubs going back to the well with Jeremy Jeffress. He didn’t necessarily make it look easy over the course of the short season and his 4.09 FIP indicated that his 1.54 was illusory, but he kept the ball in the yard and showed nerves of steel when too many walked clogged the bases. So while he might be looking to capitalize on the solid season with a bigger deal, a return to Chicago makes sense if his market doesn’t develop.
There are plenty of other options out there, of course, it just seems as though Hoyer has a penchant for pursuing players with ties to the Cubs or Chicago. That’s not a coincidence, it’s a matter of getting them to take a little less of what little budgetary flexibility he’s got. Well, except in the case of Andrew Chafin, who got a little more than just about anyone expected.
With just a few days until pitchers and catchers report, I think we’ll see at least two moves announce here soon.
Update: Kipnis signed with the Braves on a minors deal, so cross him off the list. Could that mean pivoting to Eric Sogard, Travis Shaw, or even Jake Lamb?