Chicago Cubs plan for DH in 2023 was hiding in plain sight

Oct 26, 2022; Surprise, Arizona, USA; Chicago Cubs outfielder Matt Mervis plays for the Mesa Solar
Oct 26, 2022; Surprise, Arizona, USA; Chicago Cubs outfielder Matt Mervis plays for the Mesa Solar / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

At the end of the 2022 Major League Baseball season, Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer confessed that the team's offensive approach was flawed as the Cubs lacked power and the ability to elevate the ball. That would be the reason why there was a belief at the start of the offseason that the Cubs would emphasize finding a power-hitter.

To date in the offseason, the Cubs have leaned against the idea of adding a power-hitter. Taking a look at the position players that the Cubs have added at the Major League level this offseason--catcher Tucker Barnhart, first baseman Eric Hosmer, shortstop Dansby Swanson, and center fielder Cody Bellinger--it is clear that emphasis has been on run prevention as opposed to being run scoring. Hosmer is a competent hitter at first base and that is more than what the Cubs had at first base last season but he no longer has the power in his bat that he had during the early years of his career. Swanson and Bellinger each have the ability to hit 20+ home runs but the swing-and-miss that comes with their offensive approach will cause headaches at times.

Considering the emphasis that Hoyer placed on adding power to the Cubs' lineup, it is gross negligence that he has yet to accomplish that goal. While there certainly is a chance that the Cubs could trade for a power bat before the start of Spring Training, the chances of that appear slim. It's possible, however, that the Cubs have already found their power source and it is just a matter of adding him to their 40-man roster.

Cubs' first base prospect Matt Mervis had a breakout season in 2022 as he clubbed 36 home runs across three levels of the organization. Most importantly, Mervis dominated at the triple-A level to end the season. In 240 plate appearances with the Iowa Cubs, Mervis slashed .297/.383/.593 with 15 home runs and a .416 wOBA and 152 wRC+. The added benefit is that the Cubs' improvements to Mervis' swing in 2022 translate extremely well to his ability to hit right-handed pitchers with velocity at the Major League Level.

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FanGraphs Steamer projections have Mervis with a .259/.322/.477 clip in 2023 with 21 home runs and a .343 wOBA and 122 wRC+. In regard to the free-agent and trade options that are available to the Cubs at this moment, the wise decision may be to hedge their bets on Mervis succeeding right away. The signings that the Cubs have made this offseason have raised the floor regarding the expectations for the team and that should also allow for some leeway in regard to Mervis serving as the team's designated hitter while adjusting to the Major League lifestyle.