MESA, Ariz. – Another day, another outfielder for the Cubs.
One day after bringing back center fielder Dexter Fowler on a one-year deal, the Cubs on Friday added four-time Gold Glove outfielder Shane Victorino on a minor-league deal.
Victorino, 35, earns $1 million if he makes the big-league club (plus another possible $1 million in bonuses).
The addition further addresses an offseason priority of shoring up a porous outfield alignment, with Victorino likely to get used regularly as a late-inning defensive replacement.
He said he’s healthy again after being limited by injuries in recent seasons after spending last year splitting time between the Red Sox and Angels and batting .230 with a .308 on-base percentage in 71 games.
“I’m just grateful for the opportunity to come in and be a part of something hopefully that’s special,” said Victorino, who might best known at Wrigley for the beer that was thrown on him as he was catching a fly ball during an August game in 2009. “I’ve been blessed in my career to be part of a couple special championships in special cities. I always tell myself, being a fan of the game, when there’s a 100-plus-year drought for a championship, you always want to be the first to be a part of it.
“At the end of the day it’s not about playing time, it’s not about where things are. It’s about winning.”
The “Flyin’ Hawaiian” was the starting center fielder for the Phillies’ 2008 World Series champion. He was the right fielder for the Boston Red Sox’ 2013 champion.
Manager Joe Maddon he’s been working on how all his suddenly increased outfield options will translate into playing patterns for a group expected to consist of a top four of Jason Heyward (mostly right), Fowler (mostly center), Jorge Soler (sharing left) and Kyle Schwarber (sharing left). Victorino and infield-outfield backup Javy Baez are the early favorites to be part of a six-man mix.
“We’ll play spring training out and give guys opportunities in a bunch of different spots and see what we’ve got,” Maddon said. “We kind of worked it on a piece of paper, primarily talking about Soler, Schwarber, Dexter and Jason and the number of at-bats they could possibly generate and number of games played with this crowded outfield.”
Victorino hit during the off-season with new teammates Kris Bryant and Fowler near his home in Las Vegas. Nobody had to teach him about his new home.
“I know what it’s like,” he said. “The memory that sticks out to me is the beer being poured on my head back in the day [in 2009] at Wrigley as a visiting player. I understand the passion of Cubs fans and what it is.”