If you were hoping to be encouraged by a report of the Cubs’ pursuit of an impact bat to bolster their infield, you’ve come to the wrong place. All things considered, the latest name to which they’re being connected makes Daniel Descalso seem like a juiced-up Bret Boone. According to Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic, the Cubs are pursuing ($) 28-year-old Carlos Asuaje after being unable to afford options like Eric Sogard and César Hernández.
That information probably doesn’t assuage your concerns about all the other inactivity this offseason, since Asuaje isn’t exactly a difference maker. He’s a career .240 hitter with a .641 OPS and a 75 wRC+ over 586 plate appearances, with a -0.2 fWAR that comes from overall negative marks both at the plate and in the field.
Asuaje lasted only 194 plate appearances with Chiba Lotte of the KBO last season before being released, at which point he put together a lackluster campaign with the D-backs’ Triple-A outfit. There’s been a glimmer of hope in the Dominican Winter League, however, as Asuaje is batting .372 with a .984 OPS in 49 plate appearances for Escogido. That small sample success isn’t enough on its own to earn him a new deal, so what might the Cubs see?
The first thought would be stellar defense, which doesn’t seem to be the case based on his sporadic MLB performances. And it’s sure not speed, as evidenced by 39 stolen bases across his entire professional career, which includes one steal and a negative baserunning score in MLB. There isn’t even a direct tie to this front office, though the Red Sox drafted Asuaje and then traded him to the Padres as part of the Craig Kimbrel deal.
More than Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer pining to make a move for a guy their former teams have acquired at one point or another, they’re probably driven by Asuaje’s low price tag. There may also be a sense that his performance this winter is a sign that he’s figured something out, which would make him a decent depth option at several positions. It’s never a bad thing to have a guy who can play all over the field, provided he can actually produce positive value while doing so.
Based on what the Cubs have to work with at this point, the highest priority may just be that the guy has a pulse and won’t push them much further into luxury tax penalties. Until they make a trade, that is. Then they can spend the payroll surplus on all the stud free agents who’ve already signed deals elsewhere. Sweet.