Chicago Cubs: 3 free agents who could still improve the team

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Chicago Cubs, Scooter Gennett
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Scooter Gennett

There aren’t many uncertainties in the Cubs lineup. Barring trades, most fans could fill out a lineup card right now and it’d likely be pretty accurate come Opening Day. The one position that’s least certain is second base.

With a Ben Zobrist return seemingly unlikely, the next man up for the Cubs looks to be Nico Hoerner.

Last September, Hoerner spent a short time with the Cubs, filling in as an injury replacement down the stretch. He played as well as you could expect a rookie to perform, especially considering he was called up to the MLB level straight from Double-A, where he only played 70 games. With the Cubs, Hoerner slashed .282/.305/.436.

The Cubs could start the 2020 season with Hoerner pegged as the everyday second baseman, but they may not feel he’s developed enough to rely on him that heavily if they can avoid it. Other options to fill the middle infield spot opposite Javier Baez are David Bote, Daniel Descalso, Hernan Perez, and Robel Garcia.

With none of those secondary options inspiring confidence, the Cubs could look to the free-agent market to fill the gap. If they do, Scooter Gennett seems like he’d be one of the best fits of those still available.

Gennett had a horrid 2019 season, but that may be in large part due to injuries. A right groin strain left Gennett sidelined until nearly the start of July. When he did finally see the field, he hit uncharacteristically bad.

Gennett hit a combined .226/.245/.323 during his time in Cincinnati and then San Francisco after being dealt there at the trade deadline. His biggest struggle after working his way back from the groin strain was his plate discipline and his ability to make contact.

As you can see there’s a stark contrast in Gennett’s numbers between his first two seasons in Cincinnati, and his injury-marred 2019. His 0.05 BB/K ratio was the worst among all players with at least 130 plate appearances last season.

Perhaps an offseason of rest and rehab will allow Gennett to get back to full health and return to his pre-injury form. If you combine his numbers from 2017 and 2018, he slashed an impressive .303/.351/.508 with a wRC+ of 124.

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If the Cubs take a chance on Gennett, it could pay off big time. Assuming he can bounce back, adding a hitter to the Cubs lineup who produced runs at a rate 24 percentage points better than league average could be a game-changer.