Chicago Cubs Rumors: Cubs must swoop in for Josh Bell

Michael Brakebill
Wild Card Series - San Diego Padres v New York Mets - Game One
Wild Card Series - San Diego Padres v New York Mets - Game One / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages
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After missing on Jose Abreu, the mission is Simple: The Chicago Cubs must land Josh Bell. Far and away, Bell is the next best first baseman of the free agent class, Bell offers switch-hitting ability which now comes with vital postseason experience. Though the Padres lost in the NLCS this year, Bell slashed .353/.353/.588 in 5 NLCS contests. As unfortunate as it was that the Cubs missed on one of their main targets in Jose Abreu, Bell arguably could fill an even larger need for the Cubs.

Yes, if you told me Abreu is a better hitter than Josh Bell, I certainly wouldn't argue with you. However, there's nothing wrong with inserting a switch-hitting slugger into your everyday lineup. On the contrary, I would also argue that on days when you face a right-handed pitcher with bad splits against lefties like so many have, being able to plug in Bell and Mervis both as lefties actually becomes even better than Mervis and Abreu against a guy that can dominate right-handed batters. Simply put, though Abreu may be the better overall hitter, Bell offers more from a match-up perspective.

At 30 years old, according to Fangraphs, the highest contract projection for Bell comes in at just 3 years and 43MM. Well under the mark Abreu wound up signing for. Given Abreu's age, the Cubs were hesitant to give him that 3rd contract year. With Bell, even if Mervis breaks out, he can still be utilized as a switch-hitting DH for multiple years. Even at four years, Mervis isn't blocked because Bell can DH and vice versa. Also, if Mervis doesn't work out, you at least have Bell locked up for a while anyway.

Don't sleep on Josh Bell as being the Chicago Cubs option at first base.

Frankly, in terms of intelligent spending, Bell can be a strong piece for the Cubs for at least 3-4 years. Though he had a down 2nd half once he got traded to San Diego, the numbers overall are still good for him. He carries a career slash line of .262/.351/.459 and averages just under 90 RBIs per 162 games played. Bell has batted at least .260 in 5 of his 7 seasons and earned his first Silver Slugger in 2022. In 2019, he earned his first All-Star nod and went on to slash .277/.367/.569 with 37 HRs and 116 RBIs. His career on-base percentage of .351 is well above the league average mark of .312 in 2022.

We all want to see the Cubs go and land Trea Turner or Carlos Correa. The fact is, if they don't, they can actually find multiple guys who can produce nearly just as well for a fraction of the price. For example, you sign Carlos Correa to an AAV of 35.0MM. Great, an elite player. He goes into 2023 and bats .280, hits 25 homers, and drives in 90 for the Cubs. Or, for 35.0MM, you go and sign Josh Bell and Brandon Drury for 25MM AAV total between the two of them and they go on to put up 158 RBIs together as they did in 2022 for a fraction of the cost of just one guy. I'm not saying to not sign a shortstop here, I'm just pointing out that there are more paths to "intelligently" building a competitive roster than by just one landing on big fish.

Next. Trea Turner is the preferred shortstop for the Cubs?. dark

For the Cubs though, if not a shortstop, it is absolutely imperative that it starts with guys in this range like Josh Bell. A clear need for a first base, a clear candidate that can help your ball club improve. If I were Jed Hoyer, I'm focusing all my attention on getting this deal done, letting it serve as a domino to other free agents in the process that the Cubs are looking to compete. Bell fills just as strong of a need, if not better than Abreu did due to his switch-hitting. He is younger, cheaper, and would mash in a hitters ballpark like Wrigley Field.

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