"Hopefully Jimmy still has something left and it was just a bad start," general manager Jim Hendry said.
Reed Johnson has played well in center and Hendry said Edmonds have to earn playing time in a platoon setup.
"The game is full of history of people that a lot of people were willing to write off and they had a change of scenery and did well again," Hendry said.
"Maybe it will give us a little extra that we didn't anticipate and give Jimmy a fair shot. He has to play well and he knows that."
To make room for Edmonds, the Cubs optioned outfielder Felix Pie to Triple-A Iowa.
Edmonds flew to Chicago on Wednesday and then passed a physical and will be in uniform Thursday when the Cubs wrap up a four-game series with the team that let him go, the Padres.
An eight-time Gold Glove winner and four-time All-Star, the 37-year-old Edmonds strained his right calf in a spring training game on March 6 and started the season on the disabled list. He was activated on April 5 and batted .178 in 26 games with one homer and six RBIs -- well below his .286 career average.
"I think he's going to be a motivated player," Hendry said earlier. "Obviously we're not going to ask him to have to go out there every single day."
Hendry said scouts reported that Edmonds was improving before he was released. Hendry said Edmonds may have tried to come back too soon from the calf injury.
Edmonds had an $8 million salary this year, which is being mostly paid by San Diego. The Padres received $2 million from the St. Louis Cardinals when they acquired Edmonds on Dec. 15 for minor league third baseman David Freese. Chicago will pay Edmonds a prorated share of the $390,000 minimum, which comes to about $290,000.
Edmonds was a key figure in the very heated Cardinals-Cubs rivalry during his eight years in St. Louis. He has 32 career homers against the Cubs, including 17 at Wrigley Field. A left-handed hitter, he might platoon with Reed Johnson in center field.
"There are really no negatives in it," Hendry said. "You're not giving up players and you're not spending a lot of dollars. ... Hopefully, he'll be able to give us a great portion of the Jim Edmonds we all knew and used to fear in a lot of ways. He used to play well against us and played well in this park."
The Cubs have been looking for a left-handed hitter.
"When he's ready, we'll get him go out there and let him play some in center field," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "We'll put him out there to play and we'll see what happens."
The addition of Edmonds could make for an interesting situation in the Cubs' clubhouse. During a 2004 game with the Cardinals, Chicago pitcher Carlos Zambrano twice hit Edmonds with pitches twice and was ejected.
Edmonds also homered in that game and stood at the plate to admire the flight of the ball, angering Zambrano who began to yell at him as he neared the plate after running the bases.
"I just told him to run the bases and don't try to be cocky," Zambrano said after that game.
Zambrano declined comment Wednesday when asked about the arrival of Edmonds in the Cubs' lineup.
Padres manager Bud Black said he sensed that Edmonds still wanted to play, even after he was released.
"The Cubs know what they need," Black said. "He just felt bad that it didn't work out. Like I said, he feels like he still has some baseball in him. He's a competitor. He has a lot of pride. I think it could be a good fit."