The Chicago Cubs have finally made their decision on what to do about first base. In adding Eric Hosmer, they've given Matt Mervis a competent, if unremarkable partner and a veteran presence to help his transition to the majors be as smooth as possible. With a 107 wRC+ across the last three years in San Diego, Hosmer marks an improvement to a team that severely lacked offense. To really boost their hitting, however, it's time the Cubs turn to the trade market.
Looking at the remaining free agent bats out there, there's not much to be excited about unless you're holding out hope for a last-minute steal of Carlos Correa from the Mets. Beyond a miracle there, the next best bats would be names like Nelson Cruz, David Peralta, and Corey Dickerson. There are reasons why those names might interest the Cubs, but they won't exactly move the needle. Peralta may be the best of the bunch in terms of the team's needs, but with a 104 wRC+ and .164 ISO, there's not enough power there to inspire confidence.
With Hosmer now on board, the most sensible way to add seems to be by trade. One positive to bringing him in is the cost. Thanks to being cut loose by the Red Sox while still under his massive Padres contract, Chicago could only have to pay the league minimum for his services. That leaves a little extra space to keep adding and, if the free agent market doesn't offer enough promise, it's time to flex that payroll in creative ways. On top of that, the Cubs still have a bit of a 40-man roster squeeze and could afford to ship off a few younger, controllable pieces to land extra value.
Who can the Cubs swing deals for to bolster the offense?
Finding deals, of course, requires some speculation. There are few players we know for certain that are on the block at this point. Ideally, Rafael Devers would be the target as a lefty third baseman with one of the best bats in baseball, but the situation with Boston is unclear at this time. Rather, the targets for the Cubs could skew toward high-reward change of scenery candidates or reclamation pieces.
As we've previously mentioned, Austin Meadows seems like a good candidate. Health issues largely diminished his performance in Detroit and he hasn't found his footing with the Tigers. A trade while his value is low could pay off big. The same goes for Jo Adell, the once-massive Angels prospect who has floundered in the majors and could be pushed out of a job with the team's recent acquisitions. He's still only 23 and the minor league numbers are still good enough to warrant a look. If they want some extra power, it might be worth meeting the Orioles' need for a controllable starter to land Anthony Santander following a breakout last year.
Or, the Cubs could use the money saved to get really creative. There has to be room for a big swing like, say, for Anthony Rendon. The Angels' third baseman has been hurt for much of his tenure in LA and, with a massive contract attached, could be one to eat money for acquiring. Prior to the injuries, he was one of baseball's best players, finishing third in MVP voting in 2019. Considering the Angels also acquired Gio Urshela and Brandon Drury, the door may be open to convincing them to send Rendon to Chicago. Plenty of money could come off the books next season too, making a move to take on a significant salary all the more reasonable.
This is all wild speculation, but it shows the types of moves Jed Hoyer and company can make to take advantage of other teams' needs and weaknesses. With first base now covered, it's time to start looking for something to round out the roster. Flexibility as to how the offense is improved is available on the trade market in a way free agency simply can't offer right now.