Hot Stove season is here, and NBC Sports Chicago is taking a look at free agents who could fit the Cubs’ needs — and budget. Last up is Padres utility man Jurickson Profar.
Looking at the Cubs roster, in the context of adding this winter, two player attributes they can use are defensive versatility and contact-oriented bats.
And given some of the Cubs’ limitations as they trim payroll, one potential target who offers both of those traits is Padres free agent utility man Jurickson Profar.
Profar, who doesn’t turn 28 until February, debuted in 2012 and was the game’s No. 1 prospect entering 2013. After getting his first extended big league look in ’13 (85 games), he missed the next two seasons with a right shoulder injury.
He only played 112 games from 2016-17, bouncing between the big leagues and Triple-A with Texas. They traded him to Oakland in the 2018-19 offseason, and Oakland traded him to San Diego last winter.
Profar has been a streaky hitter throughout his career (.238/.318/.397) but found some consistency in the shortened 2020 season. The switch-hitter posted career highs in average (.278), OBP (.343) and OPS+ (113) following a slow start in which he hit .098 through 13 games. He hit .331 in his next 43, though his peripherals show some good fortune in that stretch (.345 BABIP).
However, Profar’s contact and strikeout rates stand out when looking at a potential fit with the Cubs.
It’s no secret the Cubs may look to diversify their lineup this winter after finishing in the bottom third of baseball in contact each of the past six seasons. Profar puts the ball in play at a high clip (career 82.9 percent contact rate) and doesn’t strike out much (16.4 percent rate). He also has some pop in his bat, hitting 20 home runs in both 2018 and ’19.
Defensively, Profar has shuffled around the diamond in his career after debuting as a middle infielder, playing everywhere but catcher. He began 2020 at second base, where he’s a below average defender, and eventually moved to left field. He graded positively in 39 outfield appearances (36 in left) this past season, accounting for 4 Defensive Runs Saved.
The outfield is a big question mark for the Cubs right now, following their decisions to non-tender Albert Almora Jr. and Kyle Schwarber. The group currently features Ian Happ — who can play left and center — and Jason Heyward.
Profar’s bat doesn’t profile like a typical left fielder, but that matters less in today’s game, an era of three true outcomes full of home runs. He has the offensive skill set the Cubs need and can hold his own in the outfield.
And while the Cubs have internal second base options — Nico Hoerner, David Bote, Ildemaro Vargas — and may look to add a veteran, like they did in 2020 with Jason Kipnis, it never hurts to have someone capable of moving around when needed. Profar has proven he can do that.
Depending on what his market looks like, Profar could be an option for the Cubs to add a versatile defender, one that would give their lineup a different look in 2021.
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