When the Chicago Cubs traded for third baseman Jeimer Candelario a day before the MLB Trade Deadline, there was a sense that the move may have been made for 2024 as much as it was for 2023.
Prior to Candelario's addition to the roster, there was a very real case to be made that the Cubs' 2024 starting first baseman and starting third baseman were not yet on this roster.
While first base prospect Matt Mervis should not be discarded from the first base discussion after his struggles earlier this season at the Major League level, the Cubs and their handling of Mervis since would seem to suggest that he may not be high on their list of solutions.
Ditto for Nick Madrigal at third base who has played better defense at the position than expected but his hit-tool remains inconsistent.
It would seem that the Cubs will want Candelario to remain with the team and to fill one of those positions as that was a sentiment expanded on by Patrick Mooney of The Athletic.
"Hoyer’s preferred method of dealmaking is giving higher annual salaries for shorter contract lengths. Candelario will be 30 on Opening Day next year, and his versatility is an appealing quality for a team that wants to create depth, play matchups and buy time for prospects to develop without saddling future payrolls with onerous deals...On both sides, it sounds like a lot of the boxes have already been checked."- The Athletic
On the season, Candelario is slashing .274/.358/.493 with 17 home runs, 129 wRC+, and a 3.8-fWAR.
Let's compare that to Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Matt Chapman. Chapman, also 30, will also be a free agent after the season. Chapman is slashing .251/.342/.441 with 15 home runs, 118 wRC+. and a 3.4-fWAR while being one of the best defensive third basemen in all of Major League Baseball.
Rather than overpaying on Chapman, and it will be an overpay given the scarcity of available bats this winter, the Cubs would have more value in re-signing Candelario.
Candelario's ability to play first and third base would fit nicely for the long-term direction of the Cubs as 2023 first-round pick Matt Shaw could be on the fast track to the Major League level with third base being the ideal position. Candelario's cost likely wouldn't deter the Cubs, either, in their loftier goals of re-signing Cody Bellinger and potentially being in play for Shohei Ohtani. And, to clarify, re-signing Bellinger and pursuing Ohtani will likely be an either/or situation for the Cubs but not both.