Despite the free agent market for third basemen being relatively weak this winter, the Cubs will still likely look around to see if they can upgrade at the position Patrick Wisdom has largely held down since last July.
Although his season is not yet over, Padres utilityman Brandon Drury could be a nice addition for Chicago. After a monstrous first half in Cincinnati, the Reds flipped him to San Diego ahead of the trade deadline.
At the time, Drury was slashing .278/.336/.528 with 18 home runs and 52 driven in. He cooled off with the Padres but wound up finishing the regular season with a mark of .263/.320/.492 to go along with 28 bombs and 87 driven in. All things considered, this has to be considered the best year of the former13th-rounder’s career.
Taking a look at the splits, Drury mashed lefties, recording a .299/.329/.626 slash, .327 ISO and 160 wRC+ against southpaws this season over the course of 147 ABs. His line of .248/.317/.439 against righties was just a tick higher than league average for both batting average and on-base percentage, which is certainly tolerable, but his production and value was clearly at its highest against left-handers.
For the Cubs, signing a 30-year-old Drury to a short-term deal might be the way to go if the front office wishes to utilize Christopher Morel in more of a multi-position utility role next year. Of course, decisions would also have to be made about Patrick Wisdom. With the Cubs purportedly in the mix for Jose Abreu and likely planning to bring up Matt Mervis next year, the options for Wisdom would be slim in terms of playing the field if the Cubs landed Drury.
Knowing all that, it makes more sense for Drury to fall into that ‘backup plan’ bucket, should Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins miss on their first wave of corner infield targets this winter. Missing on Abreu for example, still allows the Cubs to have Wisdom and Mervis platoon at first base while picking up Drury for third base and using Morel to plug any holes in the lineup on a daily basis. Moving Morel around isn’t much of an issue, but limiting Wisdom to a DH role if you’re planning on keeping Franmil Reyes (which remains to be seen) is problematic.
Drury, on the other hand, has played all over the diamond in his career, which bodes well for a team that values positional versatility like the Cubs. Unless Nolan Arenado shocks the baseball world and opts out of his contract with St. Louis, Drury seems to be one of the best third base bats available in free agency this winter. As much as we may wish otherwise, the Cubs may not have the luxury of waiting around hoping he’d still be available later on down the line if they choose to pursue other options first.
This isn’t a guy who breaks the bank or garners a ton of headlines – but could still be an important piece to a contender’s puzzle. We haven’t talked a lot about that next tier of free agents yet this offseason, but someone like Drury checks a lot of boxes.