LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – “I don’t think you have to walk out of here with deer antlers.”
General manager Jed Hoyer actually said that last year, but once again the Cubs left the winter meetings without any huge trophy to put on the wall.
The Cubs did swap outfielders with the Miami Marlins on Thursday, trading Brian Bogusevic for Justin Ruggiano and keeping the focus on potential future core players like Junior Lake.
There wasn’t much action this week at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. The Cubs left Lake Buena Vista, Fla., hoping Ruggiano can become another under-the-radar move that provides value.
Ruggiano hit .222 with 18 homers, 50 RBI and a .694 OPS in 128 games last season. He will be 32 next season and remains under club control for three more years. He’s a right-handed balance to the left-handed bats in the outfield – Ryan Sweeney and Nate Schierholtz.
The Cubs project Ruggiano’s game will play better away from Marlins Park. He hit 15 homers on the road last season and generated a .954 OPS against left-handed pitching the last two years.
“We feel like it’s a better fit for our roster,” Hoyer said. “We get a guy that really hits left-handed pitching well. He can platoon with one of several guys we have and play all three outfield positions.”
The Cubs want to get a longer look at Lake. Alfonso Soriano said he saw a younger version of himself in another converted infielder from the Dominican Republic and thought he might have 40/40 potential.
“Junior Lake’s going to get a ton of playing time,” Hoyer said. “We have opportunity (and) a player like that needs to be out there getting at-bats and developing. So I don’t really see (the Ruggiano trade) effecting Junior. I just think we didn’t have that kind of veteran right-handed bat that can platoon and hit lefties.
“The only way Junior’s going to get better is by playing. We’re excited about the winter that Junior’s had. It seems like he’s really built on a strong season.”
Lake is back home playing for Estrellas de Oriente and leading the league with a .343 average. He hit .284 with six homers and 16 doubles in 64 games with the Cubs after making his big-league debut last summer.
Lake will turn 24 in spring training. There’s enough upside that he won’t be breaking camp with the team so he can sit on the bench.
“Junior’s going to get playing time,” Hoyer said. “We’re in the phase of our development where having at-bats for a guy to develop is really important. I don’t think you’ll ever see us bring up a guy that we consider a future regular player – an everyday player – and just not hand him at-bats. Because otherwise we’d much rather have that player at (Triple-A) Iowa.”