Cubs Offseason Questions: Where Will Left-Handed OBP Come From?

In the next installment of our Cubs Offseason Questions we look at top-of-the-order options. GM Jed Hoyer has stated he prefers to find some left-handed OBP options to set up his young mashers.

There are lots of ways to broach the subject of left-handed-hitting, gets-on-base bats as relates to the Cubs.

We could talk about free agent signings — in 2015, or perhaps beyond. We could talk about trade targets — perhaps from MLB, perhaps from the AAA level, or perhaps even below. We could talk about the Cubs’ own system *cough* VOGELBACH *cough*. Excuse me, had a peanut shell in my throat there.

Today, rather than try to guess who the Cubs will actually acquire (Aoki!), I am going to try to systematically look at the best LHH OBP bats in MLB, and maybe sprinkle in some stuff about their availability.

Let’s start by asking Fangraphs which left-handed hitters with at least 200 plate appearances against righties got on base the most often in 2014. Again, this is looking specifically at PA’s as an LHH against an RHP.

1. Michael Brantley – .388
2. Jason Heyward – .384
3. Corey Dickerson – .379
4. Angel Pagan – .374
5. Daniel Nava – .372

None of those cats look particularly available to me. I suppose the first name that really really pops out is…

9. Denard Span – .362

It’s mostly Tom’s sources that say this is a guy to watch, because I have a pretty good feeling the Nationals will exercise Span’s $9 million club option as soon as this season is over. But let’s suppose the club lets him walk, and the Cubs have an opportunity to add this guy. What would they be getting?

Span turns 31 next year and seems to just looooove getting on base. His .355 OBP from this season (remember that’s against both lefties and righties) is right in line with his career mark — although that’s the best stat he’s posted in some time. From 2010 to 2013 he hit .273/.332/.371 which is, ya know, fine. But he’s also posted fWARs in the mid-3s for three consecutive seasons now, so I think he’s worth well more than $9 million. But, we’ll see.

Tom also tells me he’s been hearing the name of one…

10. Dexter Fowler – .361

Now there’s a guy who gets on base. Since 2009, Fowler has reached in 36.8% of his plate appearances, which is simply lovely. He is a free agent in 2016, so given that he’ll be 30 then, perhaps the Astros would like to move him? I don’t know whether Houston would like to delay “go for it” mode, but Tom also hears Houston sees Jake Marisnick as Fowler’s cost-effective replacement, so perhaps a Fowler trade makes sense.

Interesting note: Chris Coghlan is 17th on this list! Neat! And just ahead of him is…

16. Melky Cabrera – .355

Cabrera is a free agent, like, immediately, so the Cubs could acquire his services for cash only. He will turn 31 in 2015, and has been up and down over the past several seasons (2.6, -0.9, 4.5, 3.7, -1.4 fWARs going back the last 5 years). Oh yeah, plus that drug suspension thing. But he did post a .351 OBP this year, and he’s done the time for his crime. If the Cubs decide to spend a lot of money this offseason, I could see them adding Cabrera.

Okay, speed round. Next up is…

25. Nick Markakis – .342

Markakis has an option for 2015 so we’ll have to see see if the team exercises it. He’ll be 31 at the beginning of next season and has pretty excellent control of the strike zone along with decent pop, despite never usually hitting that many home runs.

Bonus round: I think the Cubs might go after…

46. Nori Aoki – .323

He’ll be cheap and has a .353 OBP in his MLB career.

I have also been told to mention…

53. Ben Revere – .312

But I’m just not seeing that one.

This topic might not be as sexy as courting a stud pitcher, but picking up one of these guys is exactly the kind of thing Theo Epstein was talking about when he said the Cubs are “going to be adding some talent from outside the organization that will further round out our club.”

After all, the Cubs’ young sluggers are hungry; somebody’s got to set the table.

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