Chicago Cubs Rumors: Three fallback 1B targets this offseason
We've heard all the rumors by now that the Chicago Cubs have been pretty active on all fronts of the free-agent market. Being tied to pitchers, short stops, first basemen, catchers, and even centerfielders that have recently been made available. All are great places to start if you want to compete in 2023. However, a team that has several players at the top of its wish list understands that they won't hit on every one of those targets and therefore needs to have backup options penciled into that list just in case.
We know the Cubs have reached out regarding Jose Abreu, Josh Bell, and Trey Mancini. Though no other word has been released of who the Cubs might be after if they miss on those three, there are a few prominent names to at least explore and be familiar with if the Cubs have to think outside the box for this one. We know the Cubs want a right-handed bat to platoon with Matt Mervis to ease him into everyday life at the MLB level. That being said, let's take a look at three backup options at 1B should the Cubs miss on their primary targets.
First base option #1: Jesus Aguilar
Diving right into an old division rival, Jesus Aguilar. After signing a one-year deal worth 7.5MM with the Miami Marlins last year, Aguilar wasn't quite able to get into a rhythm in South Beach. Before being traded to the Baltimore Orioles, Aguilar slashed just .236/.286/.388 during his time with Miami and that number further slid upon his arrival to Baltimore, where his slash line dropped slightly further to .224/.240/.306. However, along with 2019, This is the worst mark of Aguilar's career and there's room to be optimistic here once you start to break things down.
You never should look at a free agent and think to yourself "Wow, this guy had a terrible year. That means he's terrible". No, absolutely not. From 2017-2021, Aguilar's slashed .263/.338/.476 with 25 HR and 92 RBIs per 162-game average. His best season came in 2018 when he earned All-Star honors while hitting 35 HRs and 108 RBIs in the process. With the proper protection around him, Aguilar can be a beast offensively. The only thing separating him from being one of the more sought-after first basemen is the fact that he had a down year in 2022.
Looking ahead, however, there's an easy-to-understand belief that batting averages will spike across the league next year with the banning of the shift. Looking at guys like Aguilar's advanced stats and sabermetrics shows you a nearly 40% career hard-hit rate, which will be the key for some of these sluggers to lace one through the hole for a base hit that would otherwise be hit into the shift. With that being said, Aguilar should be a prime candidate for a comeback season, especially if he has protection around him in the lineup.