With the winter meetings drawing to a close, the Chicago Cubs have done a fantastic job bolstering their roster to this point in the offseason. Cody Bellinger and Jameson Taillon are both solid additions in a supporting cast role for a team looking to get to the postseason as soon as next season. However, the Cubs know they cannot be done yet. There are still holes to fill on the roster regarding first base and catcher. Most importantly, the cubs are missing a superstar that can take them to that next level. The top superstar players left on the board are all shortstops as it sits.
That is exactly what the Cubs will need to be competitive in 2023. A player that can record a high WAR and single-handedly catapult your team to a higher win total. Without that key piece, the fear is that the Cubs are still too far behind in the National League standing to pull off a miracle playoff run. Looking at the New York Mets, Atlanta Braves, and Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East, followed by the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, and presumably the San Francisco Giants in the NL West, gives you six playoff-caliber teams right there. And that's before you factor in the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central. Unfortunately, an 8 seed is not good enough. That is where the Cubs are currently residing. About halfway up the NL standings, albeit better than last year.
Starting with making sure they add a shortstop is a great place to start to ensure they get to that wild-card caliber type of team. It allows you to have a fantastic defense up the middle while also packing a punch in the lineup. Currently, the Cubs have Nico Hoerner, Ian Happ, and Seiya Suzuki, with the potential of Cody Bellinger and Matt Mervis, that can be difference-makers. After that, production drops off dramatically. Adding a shortstop and, realistically, a catcher and another bat helps put their offense in a fantastic spot to do damage night after night.
Chicago Cubs: What can the Cubs do to ensure they get a shortstop?
Spend. The Cubs have the financial resources to get whoever they want and need to continue flexing their financial strength. After missing on Aaron Judge, who offered a whopping 40.0MM a season for his services, the Giants will have no problem going after Carlos Correa and doing whatever it takes to acquire him. That is the approach the Cubs need to have with pursuing either Correa or Dansby Swanson. If the Giants go above and beyond for Correa and offer him an insane ten-year 30+MM AAV contract, then perhaps the Cubs will turn to Swanson and up the ante for him instead.
After San Francisco missed on Judge, the reality of getting both of the remaining shortstops appears bleak. You love to see that aggressive of an approach. Signing a player is more challenging than offering him a big contract and expecting him to sign because you want him to. There is no "Just do it; what are you waiting for?" The market is highly competitive, and with six teams in on the remaining shortstops, the Cubs need to offer the best contract and sell them on a great sales pitch as well, so they believe a winning culture is here to stay on the north side.
Should the Cubs manage to miss on one of the shortstops, what next? If you genuinely want to compete, you get the best things for your team. J.D. Martinez is still available, and if he can find his power stroke may be a feasible option for the Cubs. Trey Mancini and Jesus Aguilar offer potential upside in a platoon role with Matt Mervis. In reality, the Cubs' chance of a playoff run next year more than likely depend on one of the key shortstops right now. Bellinger is a high-potential addition to the team, but he is gone after next season already. They must land a guy who will be around and contribute to the winning culture long term.
In conclusion, the good news is that the Cubs have been extremely hot on the trail of one of the key shortstops. we've seen reports that the Cubs are "down the road" with Carlos Correa. We know they've been tabbed as favorites to land Dansby Swanson. Will they land one? I believe so, personally. Regardless of whom that may be, it's beneficial to the Cubs if they get it done sooner rather than later. After doing so, see where you're at luxury tax-wise and continue filling the remaining holes to get back to playoff baseball.