Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Where Stubbs may land
By Jason A. Churchill
With the signing of Michael Bourn to a 4-year contract, the Cleveland Indians may have a surplus of outfielders. The player that appears to be most likely affected is centerfielder Drew Stubbs, since Bourn is a plus defender in center and is certain to handle the position on a regular basis.
Stubbs, who is set to earn just under $3 million in 2013, is also a very good fielder and many in the industry see him as a nice upside play for a club that can afford to give him consistent at-bats. Let's take a look at some teams without clear, long-term answers in center that may be fits for Stubbs if the Indians entertain offers.
The Chicago Cubs could be a nice fit, particularly with no obvious solution in center field on their roster. David DeJesus and Scott Hairston could share the position and prospect Brett Jackson could be ready sometime this coming season, but Stubbs allows the club to stick with DeJesus in left, where he profiles best defensively, and for Hairston to be used as a super utility option, a role for which he appears to best fit. The Cubs' needs for outfield help could heighten if Alfonso Soriano is traded at some point.
The New York Mets, who were linked heavily to Bourn, may be the club that needs a centerfielder the most, considering the projected starters are Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mike Baxter and Lucas Duda, with Nieuwenhuis slated to play a bit out of position in center.
The Texas Rangers, another club linked to Bourn earlier in the offseason, also could make a play for Stubbs. Right now, the Rangers appear ready to start spring training with Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin competing for the center field job.
The Tampa Bay Rays could use Stubbs, leaving Desmond Jennings in left and making Ben Zobrist more freely available to play a super-utility role, manning second base, first base and right field as needed, but staying in the lineup as one of the Rays' best bats.
The Boston Red Sox, who will be without Ryan Kalish for most, if not all, of the 2013 season, could see Stubbs as a potential replacement for Jacoby Ellsbury, a free agent at season's end. The Reds, who traded Stubbs to Cleveland in the deal for Shin-soo Choo, shouldn't be counted out, though for each of the above clubs cost will dictate, as usual.
The Indians could see an opportunity to strengthen their defense by keeping Stubbs and playing him in left field, and using Michael Brantley as the fourth outfielder. Brantley, however, has developed at the plate enough to warrant regular time, so that scenario may not be optimal, suggesting a trade of either he or Stubbs is likely.
Dealing one of them allows Nick Swisher to remain penciled in as the right fielder and Mark Reynolds as the first baseman. If GM Chris Antonetti decides to remain status quo, Swisher may have to play a lot of first base, draining some of his overall value, which in turn makes Reynolds the designated hitter.