Over the last few months, the Cubs have tried a hodgepodge of options to fill third base in Aramis Ramirez‘s abasence – Mike Fontenot, Ryan Freel, and Bobby Scales got time there, but recently, Lou Piniella had settled on Jake Fox, star of the Free Jake Fox campaign. Fox’s bat had forced him into the line-up, and he’d done enough to convince the Cubs manager that his defense wouldn’t be worst-of-all-time at the hot corner.
However, with Ramirez set to return from his rehab assignment on Monday, the Cubs are going to have to figure out a new plan to get Fox’s bat in the line-up. His .379 wOBA since arriving in the majors is the best on the club (besides Ramirez), and based on what he was doing at Triple-A, there’s reasons to think he can keep swinging the bat this well. But, where will he play?
Derrek Lee has caught fire after a slow start, locking down first base, so Fox probably won’t play much there. Ramirez is the team’s best player, so as long as he stays healthy, it’s hard to imagine Fox getting much playing time at third. That leaves the corner outfield spots, manned by the under-producing Milton Bradley and Alfonso Soriano. With neither of them hitting as well as expected, Fox could get some time in their place, but it’s hard to imagine that he won’t be a pretty big liability chasing down fly balls. At third, you could hide his lack of mobility, but if he’s trying to run after balls in the gap, fans are going to see pretty quickly why he’s been labeled a future DH.
So, perhaps the best option for everyone involved is a trade. The Tigers are hunting for some offensive help to offset the collapse of Magglio Ordonez, for instance. Fox is the kind of bat that could help them in their pursuit of the AL Central title, and perhaps the best way for the Cubs to use him is as a chip to acquire something that fits their needs a little bit better.
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