As the Chicago Cubs wait for the Major League Baseball postseason to conclude to begin their offseason plans in earnest, speculation has suggested that the team is expected to return to spending actively in free agency with the intention of contending in 2023.
After prioritizing the rebuild of their minor league depth over the past two seasons, Cubs president of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer confirmed with reporters that the team has plans to spend intelligently in the offseason with the goal of competing in 2023.
“Spending Intelligently” has become somewhat of a trigger term for Cubs fans as the concern is that the team will use that as the reason for not dipping into the deep end of free agency.
That is not an accurate assessment as spending intelligently can mean lucrative free agent deals but deals that are also friendly to the team. Look no further than the last offseason when the Cubs spent heavily on deals for starting pitcher Marcus Stroman and outfielder Seiya Suzuki.
‘Spending Intelligently” means that the Cubs probably shouldn’t trade for Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani this offseason but should actively spend in free agency in order to field a contender next season ahead of their next competitive window truly opening.
The Cubs will be in the on the likes of Carlos Correa and Trea Turner with the likelihood being that Correa actually does sign but the team also has other areas of need.
Centerfield is an area of need for the Cubs. Rafael Ortega’s slash line of .241/.331/.358/ for an OPS of.688 in his first full season at the Major League level would seem to suggest that the team does not enter 2023 with the idea of a 31-year-old journeyman being their everyday option in centerfield.
Christopher Morel has the ability to play centerfield but his value to the 2023 Cubs will likely come with no set position as he has the flexibility to play in both the infield and outfield. He will likely be an everyday player while not having a true position.
Fortunately for the Cubs, two of their top three prospects are centerfielders in Pete Crow-Armstrong and Brennan Davis.
Davis will likely begin the 2023 season with the Cubs’ triple-A affiliate while Crow Armstrong will likely start with the Cubs’ double-A affiliate. The Cubs will need a cheap, preferably defensive-minded stopgap for centerfield in 2023.
A former NL MVP would be the smart type of move for the Chicago Cubs.
That stopgap should be current Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger. Bellinger is a candidate to be non-tendered this offseason and the Cubs would make sense as a place where the 2019 National League MVP can rebuild his value.
2022 marked the third consecutive season here Bellinger has struggled offensively as he had a slash line of .210/.265/.389/.654 but he continued to be a plus defender for the Dodgers in centerfield.
Bellinger’s power numbers also appeared to be on a slight uptick in 2022 as his ISO .179 was up 40+ points from 2021 and his 19 home runs marked the most he has had since 2019.
Given the struggles that Bellinger has had over the past three seasons, he likely will be in the market for a short-term deal and an AVV less than the $18.1MM that he would be projected to receive from the Dodgers if tendered a contract.
With that in mind, Bellinger figures to be a name that the Cubs look at this offseason with the hope of addressing their short-term need in centerfield while rebuilding his value.