Chicago Cubs: Looking down on the farm
The first place and front office would consider is the farm. Unfortunately, the cupboard is pretty bare. Only four infield prospects rank in the Cubs’ top 30, Nico Hoerner, Aramis Ademan, Zack Short, and Trent Giambrone. None are remotely ready for the big leagues.
Enter the free agent market
The list of free agent middle infielders is led by Manny Machado. The hitting is impressive: a career .282/.335/.487 slash line over nine seasons is elite. The defense though at shortstop is just capable. With almost 1700 career innings at shortstop, his .975 fldg% is right at league average, and his -4.7 UZR-150 ranks 39th of 50 shortstops with over a thousand innings since 2015.
So what options are there? Looking at age, OBP, fielding percentage, and UZR-150 there are a couple of options that are more than capable and would cost a fraction of Manny Machado.
Jose Iglesias: the 28-year-old shortstop is an elite defender, with a career .985 fielding percentage. He also brings an 8.9 UZR-150 since 2015 making him one of the top four shortstops in baseball over the last four years. The bat is serviceable with a career .273 BA and a .317 on-base percentage. He’s not a launch angle, power hitter but he rarely strikes out and makes contact. 2018 contract: $6.28 million
DJ LeMahieu: the 30-year-old second baseman has two Gold Gloves (’14 & ’17) and a career .991 fielding percentage and 4.6 UZR-150. However, his numbers at the plate do seem to have that Coors Field bias. 2018 contract: $8.5 million.
An honorable mention is Jed Lowrie who is a solid glove guy carrying a light contract ($7 million in 2018) but he’s 34 and also sports a career .262 BA. He does get on base (.335) but his strikeout rate has been climbing the last two seasons.
It will come down to how far below the $206 million salary threshold the Cubs are after arbitration plays out. They could make a play for Machado if they have the salary space. If not, there are cost-effective options that would make sense from both a payroll perspective and on the field. And I haven’t delved into Machado’s antics during the NLCS. But that’s a topic for another time.