All signs are currently not pointing in favor of the Chicago Cubs when it comes to bringing back fan-favorite center fielder/first baseman Cody Bellinger. Scott Boras seems to be holding firm at his high price tag and, even if it eventually drops, the Toronto Blue Jays are seen as favorites to strike first. The Cubs simply aren't that interested in overpaying for one big piece when they have so many holes.
In the scenario that Bellinger walks, it becomes more important than ever for Jed Hoyer to balance out his righty-heavy lineup with a strong lefty bat or two. Finding that bat on the market isn't easy. Juan Soto, the obvious candidate, is already a Yankee. The free agent market is also low on lefty pop beyond Bellinger.
There are still some solid, if less exciting, options to add some thump from the left side though. Let's look at three players the Cubs should prioritize if Bellinger goes off the board.
#1: Josh Naylor
The obvious pivot for the Cubs should be to turn to the Guardians to push for their current first baseman Josh Naylor. It's no secret that the Cubs have kicked the tires on a few of Cleveland's All-Stars, including Shane Bieber and Naylor throughout the offseason. The fit makes a ton of sense too - the Cubs still have a hole at first base and, without Bellinger, the need to find someone for the position only becomes greater.
Naylor also provides some much-needed pop. He hasn't quite tapped into that 70-grade raw power he possesses, but he took a major step forward with the Guardians last year, hitting .308/.354/.489 with 17 home runs and a 128 wRC+. The young slugger is also only 26 and seems to keep improving with every season, even posting his lowest strikeout percentage of his career last year at only 13.7%. On top of everything, underlying metrics tend to like Naylor as his expected batting average and slugging percentage ranked in the 95th and 80th percentile respectively despite lackluster average exit velocity, hard hit percentage, and barrel percentage marks.
The one knock against acquiring Naylor is the price tag. He's under control until 2026 and, considering he was Cleveland's best hitter last year even over Jose Ramirez, he won't come to the North Side without a significant trade package. Still, if the Cubs can find a way to pull it off without too much pain, he would make for an ideal consolation prize for losing Bellinger.