NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Cubs have essentially considered all options in center field, from signing Jason Heyward to a megadeal that would weaken the St. Louis Cardinals, to trading with the Houston Astros again for a one-year rental like Carlos Gomez, to wondering if a young player like Jackie Bradley Jr. could be pried away from the Boston Red Sox.
That only leads to more questions: Is Denard Span healthy? What if Dexter Fowler doesn’t get the big offer the Cubs anticipated and needs a soft landing spot in Chicago? How about letting Ben Zobrist hit leadoff, make defense the priority and go with a low-cost platoon solution that frees up money elsewhere?
On some level, almost any winter-meetings rumor that connects the Cubs to a free-agent outfielder or another team is true, because Theo Epstein’s front office has spoken to pretty much every agent representing those players and keeps running through trade scenarios.
General manager Jed Hoyer said Wednesday night that he doesn’t expect another deal to close before the Cubs check out of the Opryland on Thursday and leave Nashville.
Span is another player the Cubs have kept on their radar for a long time, including trade discussions with the Washington Nationals last winter. Span played only 61 games during a massively disappointing year in Washington, though he still put up a .796 OPS while dealing with a series of injuries.
[SHOP CUBS: Get your Cubs gear right here]
The Nationals shut down Span in late August, and super-agent Scott Boras said his client is running full speed and doing baseball activities again after undergoing season-ending hip surgery.
“Anybody that’s interested in a center fielder or a leadoff guy has certainly contacted us, no doubt,” Boras said. “The guy’s hit .300 two years in a row (and) he averages 25 stolen bases, so he gives you a very (different look).
“There aren’t a lot of athletes in the game today that are hitting at those levels and giving you center-field defense and stealing bases. It’s been really something that has fallen off in baseball over the last decade or so.”
How about what Boras likes to call a “pillow contract?”
Outside the hotel ballroom where the Cubs just finished the press conference with their new super-utility guy, Boras smirked when a reporter suggested Span wouldn’t be looking for a Zobrist-type deal (four years, $56 million) and might be open to a short-term contract loaded with incentives.
“Well, far be it from me to ever put a ceiling on a player’s value,” Boras said. “But I think certainly he’ll be a guy that’s going to get a multiyear contract. The interest level’s that high for him.”