By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) The Cubs are in need of some veteran outfield help. After trading Jason Ruggiano to the Mariners for a young hard-throwing pitching prospect in Matt Brazis, adding some defense, speed and on-base percentage are short-term goals for Cub front office.
One former Cub seems to be an ideal part time player to add. Free agent outfielder Sam Fuld is a multi-purpose veteran who fits with the team's interest in procuring players who can play more than one position.
One of the better defensive outfielders in baseball, the left-handed hitting Fuld played for new manager Joe Maddon in Tampa from 2011-2013. Fuld had his most productive season as a major league player in 2014, splitting time between the Twins and A's and hitting a combined .239 with a .321 on-base percentage. Yet the numbers alone don't give you a real understanding of the 33-year-old Fuld's value to a team.
A former 10th-round pick of the Cubs, Fuld can help you win a game in three or four different ways. There are few players in the game who have the range and defensive aptitude that Fuld brings to the ballpark each day. Fuld also flourished on the bases last season, stealing a career-high 21 bags. As a team, the Cubs stole just 60 bases in 2014.
Having played for Maddon and knowing his role as part-time player and mentor to a young group of promising players, Fuld would appear to be an ideal fit in Chicago at this point in his career.
The fiery Jonny Gomes is another former Maddon player who fits the mold of the type of team contributor the Cubs are looking for. Gomes played from 2006-2008 for Maddon in Tampa.
The 34-year-old Gomes has a lifetime .335 on-base percentage for his career, though 2014 wasn't a good season for him in hitting .234 with six homers and 37 RBIs. As a part-time player and possessing good leadership qualities, Gomes is still worth a look at on the free agent market. He has good power (155 career home runs) with average defensive skills in left field.
Cubs front office bosses Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have been firm about wanting veteran players to help lead their young club in 2015. Fuld and Gomes are team-first veterans who won't be trying to steal a starting role from a struggling young teammate.
A flexible and fluid outfield mix will be critical for Maddon, as he tries to develop the young Jorge Soler and Arismendy Alacantara.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.
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