CHISportsNation

This may sound crazy, but the Cubs may have just made the biggest move of the season and nobody noticed it. Yesterday, the Cubs brought in a 30-year old career journeyman who has played in 117 Major League games with three different teams over the past three years and picked up only 341 plate appearances in them – most of which came in 2012. In fact, he’s only had 11 plate appearances since then. But nonetheless, the incredibly low-key signing of Quintin Berry to a minor league contract may end up being the most critical move the Cubs have made all season.

Here’s the thing – Berry’s not a particularly good hitter. Berry was hitting .228/.329/.287 in 106 games for the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox until he opted out of his contract earlier this month.

So, why’s Berry a big acquisition? His speed.

Over his limited career, he has stolen 25 bases and been caught – wait for it – zero times. His minor league stolen base stats are strong too. Over the past two seasons, he has stolen 60 bags and only been caught 12 times.

Now the Cubs aren’t the first team to realize this. Although he hasn’t played a ton in the regular season, Berry has taken three consecutive postseason trips – in 2012 with the Tigers, 2013 with the Red Sox and 2014 with the Orioles. He’s been to the World Series twice, in 2012 and 2013 and, from his run with the Red Sox, owns a World Series ring.

Although the Cubs have put up good speed numbers this season, they had nobody who would fall into the “burner” category – a guy like Terrance Gore who was plucked from the Royals’ minor leagues to help them steal bases during their stretch run last year.

This isn’t a particularly new concern. An excellent article from May by Carlos Portocarrero at BP Wrigleyville asked the question, Do The Cubs Have a Terrance Gore in Their System and analyzed players such as Matt Szczur, John Andreoli and Charcer Burks to determine if one of them could fill such a role. The answer was a resounding “maybe?”

For now, Berry will report to AAA Iowa and get some at bats and on base appearances. But expect him to be added to the 40-man roster once the calendar rolls into September. From there, it would surprise me if Berry did not have a spot on the 25-man roster during a potential Wild Card game.

Reflecting on his critical stolen base in game four of the 2004 ALCS, Red Sox speedster Dave Roberts once remarked, “Maury Wills once told me that there will come a point in my career when everyone in the ballpark will know that I have to steal a base, and I will steal that base. When I got out there, I knew what Maury Wills was talking about.”

I’m not saying Quintin Berry is a definite to go down in Cubs’ history as the Man Who Broke The Curse, but think about how important the speed of guys like Dave Roberts and Terrance Gore were to teams that made or won the World Series.

Quintin Berry clearly will have one job during the Cubs’ 2015 run – to steal a base when everyone in the ballpark knows he’s going to. If he executes, he’ll be remembered forever. When nobody was looking, the Cubs made a move to make themselves even better and more competitive as they head toward October. Just how good of a signing it was, though, will be up to Quintin Berry.

UPDATE: No sooner had I posted this than the Cubs announced the signing of Emilio Bonifacio to a minor league deal. I’d anticipate Bonifacio will compete with Berry for the pinch runner/burner spot down the stretch and potentially into the playoffs. After Bonifacio’s rough year, I’d still put my money on Berry, but it’s an interesting development. Now we’ve got two burners to choose from! I like it!

photo by Matt West.

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