It was a confusing sequence of events on Thursday, Febuart 25th, 2016.
Kicking it off was the announcement of outfielder Chris Coghlan being traded to Oakland for RHP Aaron Brooks, a seemingly odd move given Coghlan’s value and Brooks’ small career sample size of just 15 games, with unimpressive numbers. This was a head scratcher. Why would the Cubs ship out a key depth guy for an unproven arm they don’t really need? An astute coworker of mine raised an eyebrow at the situation, claiming there had to be more to this deal.
There was. Ten minutes later, it was announced that Dexter Fowler was back.
Now this was a heretofore unfathomable situation that has unfolded. Many Cubs fans, writers and insiders, myself included, had speculated that Jorge Soler could be traded, likely to Cleveland or Tampa Bay, and that maybe Fowler would come back since he had yet to sign elsewhere after rejecting the initial qualifying offer back in November. An entire offseason later and Soler was still a Cub, plus Fowler finally had a multi-year deal on the table in Baltimore. No scenario was possible to have both Fowler and Soler on the same roster again, especially after picking up Jason Heyward, right? Wrong. With Coghlan moved to Oakland, and the Fowler deal with the Orioles incomplete, Theo Epstein, the puzzlemaster extraordinaire that he is, inked Fowler and opened up a world of possibilities for manager Joe Maddon.
Such possibilities include the ability to have Fowler, valuable as a switch-hitting leadoff man with power, start in CF, thus moving Jason Heyward to right, his natural position. Soler, in turn, can platoon in LF with Kyle Schwarber. The genius of that move, is that none of the big bats are sacrificed in the lineup, and there will always be one or more power guys to come off the bench. This also takes some defensive pressure off of Schwarber, and gives Maddon a myriad of lineup options against either left or right-handed opposing starting pitchers. In short, it’s a perfect scenario. On paper, anyway.
As we get the 2016 season underway, this is the most versatile, deep, talented, and potent roster the Cubs have had in many, many years. With division foes St. Louis and Pittsburgh to contend with, a bloodbath in the NL Central will surely ensue. But one thing is for sure: There can be no more excuses for the Cubs. Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s vision is right now.