LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- It might not be the big trade fans were hoping for at the winter meetings but the acquisition of right-handed outfielder Justin Ruggiano from the Miami Marlins, for lefty Brian Bogusevic, finally provides an even distribution from both sides of the plate in the outfield heading into 2014. Last season the Cubs were too left-handed and the mix never really felt right.
“It’s a better fit for our roster,” general manager Jed Hoyer said Thursday morning after the Rule 5 draft. “He can platoon with one of several guys that we have.”
Junior Lake, Ryan Sweeney and Nate Schierholtz are holdovers from last season and are the presumptive starters going into the next one. The former hits from the right side, while the latter two are lefties. The immediate question after the acquisition of Ruggiano was how it affects Lake.
“Junior Lake is going to get a ton of playing time,” Hoyer said. “A player like that needs to be out there getting at-bats and developing.”
Ruggiano hit 18 home runs while driving in 50 and stealing 15 bases last season, all career highs. But he also hit just .222 and struck out 114 times. Hoyer said manager Rick Renteria will determine the playing time but considering Ruggiano can play center field -- as can Lake -- a platoon mostly with Sweeney seems the best course of action. Then Lake can play nearly every day.
So while the outfield got addressed, the Cubs pitching staff still remains a work in progress. On Wednesday the Cubs indicated they have offers out to both starters and relievers. Hoyer thinks things will pick up on that front.
“Christmas is a really important date for free agents,” he stated. “Mentally guys want to sign before Christmas. Even agents admit there’s a mental hurdle to go past Christmas. There will be a sense of urgency over the next couple weeks.”
So expect a signing or two but any dreams of a major deal slowly evaporated as the week went on near Disney World. Agent Scott Boras assured the media this wasn’t going to be the year the Cubs were spending big money and President Theo Epstein indicated things they have on the table wouldn’t be for significant players in the minds of those outside the organization. So players like Ruggiano are going to have to help shape the 2014 club.
“We were glad to get that done,” Hoyer said. “Sometimes it is about fit.”