After a 14-1 routing of the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night, the Chicago Cubs' offensive outburst proves the team has more questions than answers moving forward. However, they are problems that most teams are envious of. After watching Alexander Canario finally get a start at DH last night, he took full advantage by roping an RBI double for his first MLB career hit, followed up by a monumental grand slam that sent Wrigley Field into a frenzy. This is the Wrigley factor we all know and love. The atmosphere was electric:
Just before Canario hit this blast, Cubs top prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong took his best at-bat of the season, drawing a walk on a high fastball he had previously struck out against during the series with Arizona. Although PCA is still hitless, the discipline at the plate was on full display tonight in front of the home crowd, and kudos to him for keeping control of his discipline. We know the hits are coming shortly.
Aside from once PCA starts hitting, he also has his elite defense that he can bring to every game, and if somebody said he could be a perennial Gold Glove recipient, it wouldn't be a far-fetched statement. That's where the questions arise about what the Cubs front office plans to do here. With Ian Happ and Seiya Suzuki handling the corners in the outfield, PCA presumably in center, what exactly can the front office do? Let's weigh the options here, assuming the Cubs go after Bellinger this offseason.
For one, Bellinger will likely have to play first base, which, with his defense, is not bad. Therefore, Canario, PCA, Happ, and Suzuki round out the outfield and DH spots. Do you resign Candelario and bridge the gap with him until Matt Shaw is ready? That effectively means bench roles for Christopher Morel, Nick Madrigal, and Miguel Amaya. Let's build a hypothetical lineup for 2024, assuming Bellinger is still around:
1. Nico Hoerner, 2B
2. Dansby Swanson, SS
3. Seiya Suzuki, RF
4. Cody Bellinger, 1B
5. Ian Happ, LF
6. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
7. Alexander Canario, DH
8. Pete Crow-Armstrong, CF
9. Yan Gomes, C
Bench: Morel, Madrigal, Amaya, Tauchman?
If things work out that way, that is a potent lineup that will be able to compete night in and night out. With Candelario's production and defensive ability at third, they don't need to pay up for Matt Chapman. They must secure Bellinger and Candelario and stack the offense with two top prospects in PCA and Canario. The next problem is what to make of the starting rotation in 2024.
My biggest concern is what the front office will do with Kyle Hendricks. His club option of 16.5M next season is a reasonable price for the production you will most likely get from the professor, but is this going to jolt the rotation into World Series caliber? We will have to monitor the Marcus Stroman situation because if he opts in, you already have Steele, Wicks, Stroman, Taillon, and Assad. Where's the spot for Hendricks? Do you keep Hendricks and move Assad to the bullpen even though Assad is putting up better numbers? Move Taillon to the bullpen? The Cubs need another front-line starter that can move the needle toward a deep playoff run instead of picking up options for guys because they are cost-effective but won't give you the best numbers. Just my two cents.
Back to hitting, the Cubs' next-best outfielders, Owen Caissie and Kevin Alcantara, are a year away. So, you have time to ensure this is the group you want to try to win a championship with, and they will have ample opportunity to prove themselves. These are all good problems to have. Regardless of how the 2023 campaign will conclude for the Cubs, it's evident that 2024 will be a giant leap forward for the team.