#3: Brandon Belt
By no means is Brandon Belt a sexy option for the Cubs. He's heading into his age-36 season and there's little chance of him being a long-term option at first base anymore. However, as a stop-gap pick-up, there may be a surprising amount of value to be had in bringing the former San Francisco Giant All-Star on board for the bat alone.
Belt is enjoying an under-the-radar late-career renaissance. Since 2020, he's only had one season with a wRC+ below league average, albeit in somewhat limited playing time. Last season with the Blue Jays, Belt hit for a .254/.369/.490 slash line, 138 wRC+, and 19 home runs in 404 plate appearances. His expected stats were nowhere near as promising, but he still had an excellent 91st-percentile barrel rate, 96th-percentile chase rate, and 97th-percentile walk rate. He's also unlikely to cost much in free agency.
What gives some pause about Belt, however, is the strikeout rate. His 34.9% mark is by far the highest of his career. Like Kepler, he'd also be best utilized in a platoon role given his penchant for hitting righties (131 wRC+) far better than lefties (108 wRC+). For a low-cost upside play to improve on the margins, however, that still seems worthwhile given what he's done over the past few years. He can still hold down first base well enough too, posting 0.5 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) and 1 OAA (Outs Above Average) last year.
Again, losing Bellinger, after missing out on Soto and Shohei Ohtani, would make it hard for the Cubs to enter 2024 as a better team offensively. These bats on their own don't make up for that absence, but they can be a part of a greater overall plan to salvage another offseason without signing a top-of-the-market player.