With Scott Boras in control of the following four top free agents remaining, a staring contest has ensued between him and Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer. The Cubs are a good match for Cody Bellinger and Matt Chapman, who both have fascinating projections to dive into personally. Still, Hoyer’s unwillingness to get outside his comfort zone has seen any talks stall. Part of the reason for Hoyer’s unwillingness to meet Boras’ asking price, aside from knowing what he’s doing, is that the Cubs have several top prospects they don’t want to block from a path to the majors.
Looking at MLB insider Robert Murray’s article here, he specifically named Pete Crow-Armstrong and Michael Busch as guys that Hoyer is not looking to block from having a chance at everyday at-bats. Given the insane trajectory of top prospect Matt Shaw, who jumped 40 spots on MLB Pipelines top 100, he too will be someone who won’t be blocked.
Signing Matt Chapman to any multi-year deal will do just that. That isn’t to say Chapman is not a realistic target, but because of this, don’t expect Hoyer to go all out for him on a long-term deal.
Bellinger, who plays CF/1B, the two positions played by Crow-Armstrong and Busch, at least has more of a fit due to his multi-position versatility. We know Busch is being looked at to take over first base duties moving forward, but if the Cubs can land Bellinger, the Cubs will gladly find a way to make it work between the trip of lefties. If Bellinger, Crow-Armstrong, and Busch all work out, they can all get ABs, and it’s the least of the team's worries, given that Busch can shift to DH.
Hoyer finds himself in an interesting predicament. After making the farm system as strong as it is, he now has to walk the line by doing his job by making the Cubs better, which means they need a player like Chapman and two allowing his best prospects a chance to make it. Shaw, however, is already playing a secondary position at third base. His primary position of shortstop has already been blocked long-term by Dansby Swanson.
Unlock with Bellinger, Signing Chapman blocks top prospect Shaw from having a position at the MLB level. If the Cubs land Chapman, expect it to be a shorter deal. Bellinger still makes more sense as the team's number-one target this winter.