Craig Counsell provides major update on Chicago Cubs' plan for Christopher Morel

Chicago Cubs manager Craig Counsell says that Christopher Morel will be working at third base consistently in camp for the time being.

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Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs / Matt Dirksen/GettyImages

There's been some debate over where Christopher Morel fits on the team. While he's versatile, most positions he plays are occupied by regulars outside third base. The issue with Morel at third is that his defense at third in his MLB career has been, rough. In his rookie year (2022) he played 141.1 innings at third and was a -3 DRS (defensive runs saved) and -1.9 UZR (ultimate zone rating) defender per FanGraphs. Last year he only played 39.1 innings at the hot corner and was a -1 DRS and -1.5 UZR defender.

Cubs manager Craig Counsell has stated per The Atheltic's Patrick Mooney that Morel's focus in Spring defensively is at third base.

""Christopher’s done so much with the bat that it’s our job to figure out the best way to deploy him,” Counsell said Saturday. “My idea at the start of camp is to kind of focus mainly at third base. Let’s see where we’re at. Let’s evaluate that as we go. But let’s give him a chance at third base. "

Craig Counsell via The Athletic

What's notable here is that this is not a declaration of how things will be on Opening Day. This is an evaluation process with an understanding it might not be the solution. Counsell using the words, "see where we're at roster-wise" certainly raises some eyebrows. Things could change not only based on how Morel looks at third but also any roster changes i.e. acquisitions that could be had. Former Blue Jay Matt Chapman is still out there and his name and the Cubs have come up.

As the roster stands right now, there are several options at third which include Morel, Nick Madrigal, Patrick Wisdom, and Miles Mastrobuoni. It's hard to contend when there are no solidified solutions at the corner infield spots, and right now it's a crowded kitchen. Each option has strengths and weaknesses/questions.

Morel is the best offensive producer of this group. He hit 26 homers with a .821 OPS and 119 wRC+ in 107 games last year. Morel looks like the ideal candidate out of the current options, assuming he can figure it out defensively. Madrigal surprised everyone with his good defense at third in 2023, an 8 DRS and 2.5 UZR, but it's not ideal to have a no-power, sub-.400 slugging slappy hitter as an everyday third baseman. Wisdom has 20+ home run power, but the holes in the swing and coming off a career-worst -2.6 UZR at third in 2023 make him not an ideal regular candidate either. Mastrobuoni served better in the second half of last year as a bench/utility man but is not an everyday player.

There have been plenty of indications that Morel is thought of very highly by the Cubs organization, and he will get playing time as long as he's on the roster. It's just a matter of where and how often. It's also a concerning situation when a premier position in baseball is a big question mark right now, and it can hopefully be solved effectively for the 2024 season.

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