Chris Coghlan

He's back: Cubs sign outfielder Chris Coghlan to minor league contract

coghlan.jpg
USA TODAY

He's back: Cubs sign outfielder Chris Coghlan to minor league contract

Guess who's back, back again?

According to The Athletic's Patrick Mooney, Chris Coghlan and the Cubs have agreed to a minor league deal. Coghlan, 32, played for the Cubs from 2014-15 and part of the Cubs' 2016 championship season.

The Cubs announced their Opening Day roster Thursday, though Coghlan will not be joining the Cubs in Miami. The signing is likely about adding depth more than anything, as the Cubs have a crowded outfield group as is.

Coghlan played in 36 games with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2017, hitting .200 with one home run. While he struggled offensively with the Blue Jays, he made one of the best plays of 2017, leaping over St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina to score a run.

Former Cub Chris Coghlan turns in the highlight of the year in eye-popping slide

Former Cub Chris Coghlan turns in the highlight of the year in eye-popping slide

Chris Coghlan may not be a Cub anymore, but he's still doin' his thing to help out his former team.

In the seventh inning Tuesday night, Coghlan — now with the Toronto Blue Jays — turned in the highlight of the year, channeling Willie Mays Hayes from "Major League 2" as he leapt over Yadier Molina to score:

Let's see that again from every angle:

"It just all happens like that," Coghlan told reporters after the game. "You're just trying to touch home plate and have as successful a landing as you possibly can. 

"I was in shock at first because my adrenaline was going so much. ... Any time you can get the boys fired up, it's worth it."

For the Cubs, it is all the more sweet that Coghlan accomplished the feat against Molina and the Cardinals in a 6-5 Blue Jays victory.

This isn't the only time Coghlan went the unconventional route to beat the Cardinals.

In August last year, Coghlan went to call time, it wasn't granted, so he stepped back in and drilled a two-out, two-run, game-tying single en route to a 4-3 Cubs victory:

Oh and here's Coghlan's inspiration for that slide:

Chris Coghlan embraces intermittent role with Cubs

Chris Coghlan embraces intermittent role with Cubs

Chris Coghlan had, by WAR, the best year of his career in 2015. By the same measure, 2016 has been among his worst seasons since he broke into the majors and won the 2009 National League Rookie of the Year. 

But the 31-year-old still has an important role as part of a deep, flexible Cubs bench that should be an asset as Joe Maddon looks to keep his team fresh for the final weeks of a season that should result in a second consecutive playoff appearance. 

Coghlan started and batted sixth for the Cubs in Sunday night’s series finale against the St. Louis Cardinals, three nights after he pulled off a season highlight: With the Cubs down 2-0 in the sixth inning Thursday, Coghlan tried calling for time and stepped out of the box — but his request wasn’t granted, and Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez quick pitched him. Coghlan quickly got both feet into the batter’s box and roped a game-tying two-run single to right. 

“Fortunately it worked,” Coghlan said. “… Hopefully I don’t have to do that again.”

The Cubs re-acquired Coghlan June 9 from the Oakland Athletics, and he’s been more productive since returning to Clark and Addison. Coghlan entered Sunday hitting .208/.387/.292 in 25 games with the Cubs — as opposed to his .146/.215/.272 line with the A’s — and has more walks (12) than hits (10). Those consistently-competitive at-bats have been helpful in pinch-hitting spots and when manager Joe Maddon calls on Coghlan for a spot start. 

What’s impressed Maddon is how Coghlan hasn’t tried to do too much in those intermittent at-bats, which could be the case for a guy who’s pressing to earn a starting role back, either this year or next. Coghlan played in 148 games for the Cubs last year but is on pace to barely play over half a season in 2016.

“His attitude’s been fabulous, he’s been a great team guy when he’s not playing, he’s ready to pinch hit when it’s possible,” Maddon said. “He’s undergone a lot of changes over the last couple years but I know how much he likes being here. We love having him here.”

Still, Coghlan isn’t the first, second or even third choice to come off the Cubs’ bench in a neutral setting. Matt Szczur has been one of baseball’s most prolific pinch-hitters this season and homered twice in his start Friday, and all that positional flexibility means some combination of Coghlan, Szczur, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, Willson Contreras, Miguel Montero and David Ross will be available off the Cubs’ bench on a given day (all but Coghlan and Montero are right-handed hitters. 

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Maddon prefers to rely on matchup planning to determine when to deploy those guys. Coghlan got the start Sunday due to his success against Cardinals right-hander Mike Leake (10/16 with two home runs and no strikeouts in his career), and who starts or gets used in high-leverage pinch-hitting spots will be partly dependent on that matchup factor. 

That means Coghlan’s playing time will remain sporadic as the Cubs churn toward clinching the National League Central. But Coghlan, at least for this season, is accepting of that role. 

“It’s easier to do, to put your ego aside, when you’re chasing history,” Coghlan said. “And as close as we are, and we feel like we’re pulling for each other, and as good as we are — you’re chasing to win a World Series. So it’s easier to put your ego aside and do whatever you can and think of it as this year, this is your role, and the role’s not going to define me for my career but this is what I need to do for this year to be the best for this team.”