To this point in the offseason, the debate over who will and should play third base for the Cubs in 2024 has really boiled down to either Christopher Morel or Matt Chapman. But looking for other alternatives, I can't help but keep circling back to Jorge Polanco.
Polanco, who has spent his entire 10-year career with the Minnesota Twins, has battled injuries throughout his career, but when he's healthy and on the field, he's a very solid player. Last year, he appeared in only 80 games, but mustered a 112 OPS+ and 1.5 fWAR in that half-season of work.
Minnesota is reportedly listening on Polanco and Max Kepler, as they look to acquire pitching after losing a great deal of rotation depth already this offseason in Kenta Maeda and Sonny Gray, both of whom departed via free agency. Given the Cubs' rotation depth, there could conceivably be a match here.
The Twins picked up their 2024 option on Polanco and his deal has a team option for 2025, as well, meaning if the Cubs were to trade for him, he could be a cost-effective bridge to up-and-coming infield prospect Matt Shaw, who is expected to make his big league debut in the next couple years after a breakout showing in 2023.
When he's been healthy, Jorge Polanco has been a very impactful player
The bulk of Polanco's value comes from his offense; he grades out well above average both in terms of speed on the basepaths and with his glove - which brings us to another key point in all this. 2023 marked the first time he'd actually played third in his big league career since 2016 - and he has all of 24 games at the MLB level at the position.
So you're wondering: if the Cubs want a third baseman who brings his value with the bat, why not stick with Morel, who has a far higher upside than even a healthy Polanco? Because Morel could be a key piece in a trade to add a frontline starter - which seems to be the likeliest avenue for the Cubs to address that need given where free agent contracts are at this winter.
Again, it's not some headline-grabbing, super sexy solution to the third base problem, but if you aren't confident in what you're going to get from Matt Chapman - or at least comfortable enough to pay him nine figures in free agency - and you want to utilize Morel as a trade chip to land pitching, a trade for Polanco could give Chicago an answer at third base.