The Chicago Cubs have a lot of outfielders, including Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ, and Albert Almora. However, each player is either still developing or struggles in more than one facet of the game.
So, is it wise to add another player to the bunch?
Almora appeared in 125 games as a center fielder for the Cubs in 2019, but was worth -1.0 WAR and posted a 66 OPS+, so the Cubs will likely look for better offensive production.
Similar to Almora, Happ is still developing as a player. He spent considerable time with the Cubs Triple-A affiliate in 2019 to work on his approach at the plate, and when he earned a promotion, his hard work paid off as he posted a 126 OPS+ in 156 plate appearances.
Happ has the versatility to play all over the field, and it is likely that the Cubs will continue to use him in that super-utility role.
Throughout their careers, Heyward and Schwarber have generated a .648 OPS and .658 OPS, respectively, against left-handed pitchers. Both players would benefit from fewer plate appearances against southpaws.
Pillar’s right-handed bat would pair well with Heyward and Schwarber, while also giving the Cubs better coverage for when they play against a tough left-handed pitcher.
The Cubs are light on minor league talent, and their farm system ranks as one of the worst in baseball, so trading away prospect capital is not a viable option to improve their center field position. However, they have been dangling catcher Willson Contreras in trade talks, and have often been connected to Kansas City Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield.
In addition to this, they have limited payroll space. According to Spotrac, the Cubs already have $214 million committed to the 2020 roster, which is $6 million over the Collective Bargaining Tax (CBT) threshold. At this point, they will be taxed on any player they add, so they will need to be careful if they dip into free agency.
With that being said, Pillar is not likely to receive much more than the $5.8 million salary he earned in 2019. Despite being over the tax, adding Pillar would give the Cubs more production than what they received from the center field position in 2019.