The future of first base is murky right now for the Cubs

Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /

This season, the Chicago Cubs have deployed five different first basemen, and it is not just because of players being injured. The first basemen we have seen this season include Frank Schwindel (43 games), Patrick Wisdom (14 games), Alfonso Rivas (63 games), David Bote (3 games) and P.J. Higgins (17 games).

It’s clear the team is struggling to figure out if any of these guys have what it takes to be a long-term answer at the position. Hopefully, we’ll gain more clarity on that front before the season ends so, if needed, the front office can look outside the organization for an answer.

Breaking down some internal first base options for the Cubs

Frank Schwindel

Last season, when the 30-year-old Schwindel was called up after being claimed on waivers from Oakland, many people thought he could be the first basemen for a few seasons, but clearly, he had a fluke season with his .342 batting average and relentless attack mentality.

In 2022, he appeared in 75 games before being sent back down to Triple-A, hitting just .229. However, what is unfortunate for Schwindel, is that since being demoted August 9, he has rarely played. Schwindel is the third-string first basemen on the Iowa depth chart behind 24-year-old Matt Mervis, 25-year-old Alfonso Rivas and 27-year-old Jared Young, with no indication of him starting for a while. It appears that the Frank Schwindel Schwigley Field hype is officially over and will never come back.

David Bote

David Bote is someone that has been with the team for too long. Bote, an 18th round selection in 2012, made his MLB debut with the team in 2018, and since then, he has been one of the most inconsistent hitters on the team. We never know what type of Bote you will get.

One day could be someone to go 0-for-4 with four strikeouts or could go 3-4 with some extra-base pop. This season, Bote has only played 21 games in an injury-plagued season, which actually scares me. I fear that, because of this, the Cubs will give him yet another chance and he will be on the team again next season.

Bote, hitting .259 now, has a career batting average of just .229, with a whopping 291 strikeouts compared to just 110 walks. Bote has appeared at first base in just three games with the team, as he mostly will play second. However, with the deep middle infield depth the Cubs have, Bote is little more than an emergency option to play second in the future. There is no space for Bote on this team, and if Cubs management truly wants to improve, then they need to move on from the David Bote experiment.

Patrick Wisdom

Rebuilding teams should not have many veterans. And even though Patrick Wisdom has only been in the majors for a few seasons, it is time to move on and trade the 30-year-old power hitter.

Wisdom, who has played just 14 games at first, but 92 at third, is a solid defender, with a .949 fielding percentage at the hot corner this season. Given his pure power and solid glove work, he could help a lot of teams on the brink of contention. If the Cubs were only a year away from being competitive, then holding onto him might make more sense.

Really, it depends on what Jed Hoyer thinks at this point. Are the Cubs a year away from making their return to October or is this just the start of the waiting?

Alfonso Rivas

Do you remember former Cubs utility player Tony Kemp? Well, when the Cubs traded him to Oakland, in return came Alfonso Rivas. The now 25-year-old first baseman was called up in 2021 and has been going back and forth from the majors to Iowa since.

When Rivas was first called up in 2021, like Schwindel, he was doing great. In 18 games in 2021, Rivas hit .318, however, so far this year, he’s hit just .232 with a .313 OBP. Rivas is someone who has shown he can hit big league pitching, but hasn’t done so consistently. I’d bet he starts next year back with Triple-A Iowa, but looks like a backup first baseman moving forward.

P.J. Higgins

P.J. Higgins is an interesting case. He plays first, third and catcher. If the Cubs re-sign Willson Contreras, there’s not a clear path to playing time behind the dish with Yan Gomes still under contract.

Lately, David Ross has been playing Higgins over at first base – and he’s been swinging a hot stick, batting .282 on the year. The 29-year-old has been one of the more consistent hitters on the team, next to guys like Ian Happ, Nico Hoerner and Christopher Morel.

Next. 3 roster battles the Cubs will sort out before 2023. dark

So what will the Cubs do? Give Higgins a chance to start at first? Perhaps they give breakout prospect Matt Mervis a look next spring in Mesa. Regardless, Schwindel is likely gone. Bote might be kept for depth and Rivas will come back up at some point during the season. And, most importantly, Wisdom should be moved during the offseason.