Chicago Cubs offseason preview: Money to spend?

The Chicago Cubs are entering an offseason of high expectations to spend and improve, here’s everything you need to know about the 2023 offseason for the north siders.

After having a down season, the Chicago Cubs have set themselves in a position where they can make some major moves this offseason. Starting with the promise of spending from owner Tom Ricketts there could be some major free agents that’ll land in Chicago.

“We will be active in free agency and have the necessary resources available to substantially supplement our current roster.” Ricketts stated in his letter to season ticket holders. Having all the resources and the blessing from the owner to spend in free agents is key but for GM Jed Hoyer is more about developing a more intelligent way of spending.

“To me, intelligent spending involves making decisions that make sense for the 2023 season but also aren’t going to hinder what we’re trying to build. The nature of baseball contracts is challenging that way. We’ve all seen contracts of certain lengths that can really bog a team down.” Hoyer told The Athletic’ Sahadev Sharma, “It’s easy to talk about the player you’re acquiring, but if that contract ends up hindering the ultimate goal here, which is to build something special and sustainable and lasting, then it wasn’t a good transaction.”

Regardless of the goal, the Chicago Cubs currently have a roster that could use some key players in most positions. As far as who’s in and who’s out here’s a quick breakdown of the current payroll for the 2023 season:

Guaranteed ContractArbitration EligibleFree AgentsSP Marcus Stroman – $25MOF Ian Happ – $10.6MC Willson ContrerasOF Jason Heyward – $24.5MDH Franmil Reyes – $6MSP Wade MileyOF Seiya Suzuki – $18MSS Nico Hoerner – $2.2MP Sean NewcombSP Kyle Hendricks – $14MSP Steven Brault – $1.7MOF Michael HermosilloC Yan Gomes – $6MOF Rafael Ortega – $1.7MOF Jackson Frazier3B David Bote – $4MRP Rowan Wick – $1.5M2B Nick Madrigal – $1.1MSP Alec Mills – $800KRP Brad Wieck – $800KSP Codi Heuer – $800K

As far as guarantee’s the Cubs are lacking some depth. Looking at this from a positional stand point the team currently has talent that are also pre-arbitration but this league is tough to win without key signings and big moves.

Starting pitching at this moment counts with Stroman, who has an opt-out clause after the 2023 campaign, Hendricks, injured for most of the year and hasn’t pitched since July, and had contributions from Hayden Wesneski, Justin Steele and Javier Assad. While there is some hopeful talent the Cubs will need a few arms to get them over the contender line, having big question marks like Hendricks’ health is big gamble and in the game today, pitching comes a premium.

Having said that, the Chicago Cubs pitching does have some momentum to build on as they finished the second half of the season with the third best ERA in the league at 2.89. They could go all out for guys like Mets’ ace Jacob deGrom or Astros’ Justin Verlander but they come at a high price range when there’s more needs to the team, taking a flyer on someone like Japanese star Koudai Senga could be a more realistic approach. Senga could slide into the third rotation spot and take quality innings throughout the year. An added bonus to signing Senga is that there is no posting fee, as Koudai is an outright free agent.

“I think it’s important that we continue to add quality innings,” Hoyer said, “We’re actively looking for quality innings, pitchers we feel like we can work with and potentially make better,”

Now other options include, guys like Jameson Taillon, Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Bassit and Tyler Anderson, cost controllable starters that can eat up innings, or the Cubs can also explore the trade market for either Guardians’ Shane Bieber and Marlins’ Pablo Lopez. One name that is on the rumor mill that the Cubs should definitely throw their name in the hat is Shohei Ohtani, yes he may be expensive but he’s worth it.

Now starting to look on the offensive side of the ball, the Chicago Cubs current options at catcher include Yan Gomes and P.J. Higgins. After surprisingly keeping Willson Contreras at the deadline, the Cubs are expected to extend a qualifying offer to Contreras which will most likely be rejected as the longtime Cub has expressed that he wants a multi-year deal.  Having prospect Miguel Amaya recovering from injuries and not being able to reach a level past Double-A, the Cubs might take a flyer on a veteran backstop that can provide some depth.

Having Ian Happ and Seiya Suzuki locked in at the corner outfield spots, the Cubs have an opening in CF with Christopher Morel who had productive rookie season being the front runner. That being said if the Cubs are in a ‘win now offseason’ the might look for some short term help here while prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong continues to shred the minors.

Someone like Cody Bellinger, who the Dodgers are expected to non-tender his contract, could become available and could give the Cubs a high-upside power hitter that may just need a change in scenery. Another option could be defensive gem, Kevin Kiermaier. Either of those players, wouldn’t financially hinder the Cubs like a Aaron Judge type contract would and it would leave the door open for PCA when he’s ready to be called up.

Shifting over to the infield, Alfonso Rivas is the current first baseman for the Cubs, no offense to Rivas who had a respectable season but this is where the Cubs make their first splash and bring in former White Sox slugger, Jose Abreu. Now, it is true that power number faded a bit last year and it could be a sign of age but Abreu is still one of the most productive hitters in the league and is a respectable defensive player that could give the Cubs that clean up hitter that they’ll need.

Other options include, Brandon Belt and J.D. Martinez both of whom are in the late stages of their career. Matt Mervis, who is a 25-year old rookie, could come up and take some at bats as well.

The rest of the infield is a question mark, Nico Hoerner could be slated to either of the three spots depending if the Cubs manage to acquire one of the ‘big four SS’ in the market in Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, Dansby Swanson or Trea Turner. The latter is whom the Cubs should target, having Turner gives you that leadoff hitter that they have been desperate to find since Dexter Fowler left and Turner has been the most consistent of the four players in terms of health. There’s still no wrong answer on those four players.

Which leads to third base where the Chicago Cubs currently have Patrick Wisdom, who posted a 1.1 WAR this past season and could also play some first base and left field which would open the door for the Cubs to potentially upgrade at third base.

Names like Brandon Drury and Evan Longoria come to mind there. While they are veterans a guy like Longoria would bring a leadership aspect to the clubhouse and teach the young guys like Morel, Hoerner and Madrigal a thing or two.

Having money to spend and being past two rebuilding years its time to see if the Chicago Cubs pull the trigger on the win now offseason and start seeing the team improve in more ways than one.

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