Michael Brantley, OF
The Cubs have made it clear that they are looking to add consistency and a veteran presence to a lineup that broke down the stretch last season. With these two qualifications in mind, there isn’t much of a better fit on the free agent market than Michael Brantley.
Brantley, a three-time all star, is a career .295/.351/.430 hitter with the Indians and would assuredly be the type of player the Cubs are seeking to add to their lineup. Known as one of the best contact-hitters of his generation, Brantley would immediately provide an impact platoon presence for the Cubs, barring any significant moves that would open up a more everyday role for him.
However, as with many free agents, Brantley comes with his fair share of concerns. The 31-year-old hasn’t played a position other than left field since the 2015 season, leaving doubt that he could provide any defensive value outside of a corner outfield spot. Not to mention, in 2018 the defensive metrics weren’t kind to him, ranking him 26th at his position in DRS (-3).
In addition, Brantley will turn 32 just a few months into the 2019 season and coupled with his resume of injury problems in 2016 and 2017, teams may be easily scared off. In addition, as the Cubs roster currently sits, it would be hard to get Brantley an appealing number of at bats with the likes of Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora, and Ian Happ jockeying for playing time.
Ultimately, Brantley’s numbers at the plate are too hard to ignore. In 2018, he led the league in contact percentage as well as sporting the second lowest strikeout percentage. This is the type of hitter that the Cubs envisioned Almora becoming and this acquisition would infuse that ability into the lineup immediately.