The current Chicago Cubs 40-man roster has Frank Schwindel as their first baseman, and he has definitely earned the opportunity heading into 2022. He came out of nowhere after the sell-off last year and slashed .342/.389/.613 with 13 home runs and a 1.002 OPS in 56 games as a Cub. At 29 years old, he had bounced around a bit and had only 14 career MLB games under his belt prior to last season. That said, could the Cubs still take a look at the first base market for more options?
There are arguments for each side. An argument against is that Schwindel is currently penciled in at first base spot and money should be invested where there are bigger needs, such as shortstop, another starting pitcher and/or the outfield. The argument for exploring more options is to have a safety net in case Schwindel’s 2021 play ends up being “flash in the pan”; Bleacher Nation did an interesting piece on that topic that’s definitely worth checking out. It could also be pointed out that the likely implementation of a DH could allow Schwindel to stay in the lineup if they were to explore another first base option or vice versa. More flexibility opens more doors.
One big question remains after evaluating both arguments…who is available to explore?
Chicago Cubs: First base options available on the market
Far and away the biggest names on the market are Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rizzo. Of these two, a reunion with Rizzo is a lot more likely than landing Freeman. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman recently reported the Yankees could make a run at Freeman. No matter where he winds up, one thing is certain: the former NL MVP and World Series champion is going to get a massive payday. Simply put, it seems insanely unlikely the Cubs pay up for Freeman.
With Rizzo, a reunion in a DH-era National League could allow him to not play the field and rest his back as needed. Though it could depend on what he wants in terms of money and if the Cubs are willing to risk giving Rizzo a decent chunk of change for a guy on the wrong side of 30 and seemingly past his best days. At the right price and length of years, it could make sense. Two years with a third-year option could be reasonable for the 32-year-old veteran.
Other notable free agents include Colin Moran, Mitch Moreland, Travis Shaw, Dan Vogelbach and Jose Martinez.
If the Cubs are looking for cheap power with the DH likely coming, Vogelbach could fit that bill. Not much of a hitter, but he walks, hits the long ball and can play first. He would be a depth signing if anything, not an everyday first base option. Moran is a very average hitter with not much power, and Chicago could use more home run pop. Moreland quietly boasts four 20+ home run seasons in his career, but is 36 and winding down. Martinez and Shaw would be very intriguing options if it were 2018.
So to sum it all up…Freeman and Rizzo are the difference makers while the rest are at best cheap depth. That said, cheap veteran depth might not be a bad thing with Schwindel still somewhat an unknown after a small sample size in 2021. They do have Alfonso Rivas who has very solid potential and hopefully is a part of the Cubs future, but he is still a prospect and is looking to grow.