"If we don't get quite the offensive impact that maybe we had last year, or we could conceivably have with a different player, you can still get a valuable contribution with the way our roster is set if we get plus defense in center field," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said on Wednesday at the Winter Meetings.
The Cubs are one of the teams that have had conversations with free agent Jason Heyward's representatives. Heyward would be an attractive fit at Wrigley Field, where he's batted .311 (28-for-90) with four home runs, five doubles and 13 RBIs in 25 games.
The Cardinals also are talking to Heyward about staying in St. Louis, but according to reports Wednesday, they have not been told what terms it would take for a deal to get done.
Although he's primarily played right field, scouts feel the three-time Gold Glove winner could easily transition to center at Wrigley. But Heyward is considered the top free-agent outfielder on the market, and his price may be too high.
On the trade front, the Rockies are reportedly making it known that some of their outfielders are available.
There were reports Thursday that the Braves may be willing to move outfielder Ender Inciarte, who was acquired from the D-backs in the Shelby Miller deal. According to ESPN, about a dozen teams have inquired about Inciarte, 25, who batted .303 with six home runs, 45 RBIs and 21 stolen bases for Arizona in 2015. He's under team control for five more years.
After introducing Ben Zobrist, who signed a four-year contract to play second and anywhere else manager Joe Maddon wants, general manager Jed Hoyer said the Cubs most likely are finished as far as announcements from the Opryland Resort. The Meetings conclude on Thursday after the Rule 5 Draft.
"Right now, we're in a lot of discussions, but nothing I can see coming to fruition while we're here," Hoyer said.
As for trade rumors, Hoyer said expect the frenzy of reports to quiet down once executives leave Nashville.
"I think at the Winter Meetings, a lot of times people try to be opportunistic," Hoyer said. "Guys who get floated at the Winter Meetings may not be available after you leave here.
"We've had a lot of conversations. I feel that move that we made [to sign Zobrist] was an important step for our offseason and we got an additional pitcher who we're really excited about. ... [Adding Zobrist] gives us some flexibility now to move in a couple different directions. That was an important one to help define our team."