Juan Perez has not been amazing offensively over the span of his career, but on defense, it’s an entirely different story. In fact, in 2015 he pulled off at least one catch climbing the wall like Spiderman and robbed a St. Louis Cardinal of a home run, and that’s something Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon would like to see more of at Wrigley.
Signing Perez to a minor league contract is just one move among many indicating that the wheels are still turning, and all options are being considered. While it’s still possible a big move is in the offing to fill the gap in center field for the Chicago Cubs, there are signals that – should that not happen – plan “B” and possibly plan “C” are already in place.
If nothing changes at all, Jason Heyward will move to center. Without another trade or free agency move, that’s the likely plan “A”. There is good reason to believe he can excel there, and he’s a plus fielder wherever he plays. There have been questions about his ability to field to the backhand side – he’s played the corner predominantly – but his highlights from 2015 show a great number of beautiful backhands, and whether or not he ever reaches the gold glove proficiency he’s shown in right field, he’s almost certain to be the equal of Dexter Fowler in center, and likely will prove to be at worst a slight upgrade with a better bat.
Javier Baez played his first game in CF Friday night in Puerto Rico with good results, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to playing that position well in 2016. It’s likely he’ll see some time there, but unless he shows some magical stuff, he’s more likely to take the “super utility” role Maddon predicted for him. On the other hand, if he shows potential for serious defensive prowess in CF, he could move there on at least a semi-permanent basis. That would be plan “B”.
The signing of Juan Perez, and also that of Kelly Dugan may be the current plan “C”. Perez has seen a lot of action in center for the San Francisco Giants, and Dugan has been a plus fielder at that position at multiple levels of the Philadelphia Phillies organization. His bat is a little stronger than that of Perez, but he’s untested at a major league level, and he may not quite be ready to step up into such an important position. Both are intriguing possibilities, though, particularly since it’s already been mentioned that defense is the key in filling that slot, because both are very solid in that facet of their game.
If there is a plan “D” – it is may well be that all the recent minor league acquisitions are leading up to one, or more major trades – gathering attractive resources to bring the two pieces that would complete the puzzle home to Chicago – one more starting pitcher, and a true, All-Star caliber center fielder.
There is no game less likely to be won than that of out-thinking Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon…but you can’t help trying.