If the Cubs don’t land Carlos Correa, Isiah Kiner-Falefa could be a fit
By Jake Misener
In an ideal world, the storyline around the Chicago Cubs come spring training is new superstar shortstop Carlos Correa leading the team into a new era down in Mesa. But if the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that the world is far from ideal and we need to have backup plans.
So let’s say Correa winds up somewhere else – (reportedly the Yankees and Dodgers are both ready to dip their toe in that shortstop pool) – where then do the Cubs turn? How about a former Gold Glove infielder who could be the odd man out down in Texas in Isiah Kiner-Falefa after the Rangers signed both Corey Seager and Marcus Semien.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who’s controllable via arbitration through 2023, would drastically improve the team’s infield defense – which took a notable step in the wrong direction last year. Adding the likes of Wade Miley and Marcus Stroman to the mix (both of whom are heavy ground ball pitchers) makes such a move all the more important.
In 158 games with Texas last year, Kiner-Falefa batted just .271/.312/.357, which works out to an 85 OPS+. In other words, offensively, he was 15 percent below even league average. But his defense was so good that he still finished with 3.7 bWAR – which would have ranked second among all Cubs players behind only Willson Contreras (keeping in mind that most of the team’s key contributors only played in Chicago until the deadline).
How would Isiah Kiner-Falefa fit into the mix with the Chicago Cubs?
If the Cubs added Kiner-Falefa, there are a number of ways the roster can be adjusted to accommodate him. This week, we saw the idea of using Nick Madrigal as the DH tossed around. In that scenario, 2020 Gold Glove finalist Nico Hoerner can stick at second, with Kiner-Falefa slotting in at short with Frank Schwindel and Patrick Wisdom at the corners.
He’s also capable of playing third, which could allow Wisdom to DH and give David Ross a middle infield duo of Hoerner and Madrigal, with, again, Schwindel at first. Again, all these scenarios are considering no other additions on the position player side of things, which seems unlikely given the number of needs on the roster.
Kiner-Falefa certainly isn’t the sexy, star-powered household name that a Correa or Trevor Story is. But he’d help the Cubs drastically improve a weakness on the team with relative affordability for the next two years – and add yet another contact-oriented offensive profile to the mix in the process.