Cubs had interest in Jarred Kelenic prior to his being acquired by the Braves

Chicago had done its 'due diligence' on the former top propsect before Seattle and Atlanta came together on a trade earlier this week.

Tampa Bay Rays v Seattle Mariners
Tampa Bay Rays v Seattle Mariners / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

Although things never progressed to the point of actually discussing a trade, according to The Athletic (subscription required), the Cubs had at least some level of interest in outfielder Jarred Kelenic before the Seatlte Mariners shipped him to the Atlanta Braves as part of a multi-year deal this week.

Last season with the Mariners, Kelenic put together his best season as a big leaguer, but was still just barely better than league average with the bat, evidenced by a 109 OPS+. A lot of his batted ball metrics were promising and, given Atlanta's history with player development, it wouldn't surprise anybody if he were to break out in a big way with the Braves.

The former first-round pick has never really put it all together at this level but, still just 24 years old, has runway left to rediscover what once made him one of the game's brightest prospects. For the Cubs, though, even a cursory interest makes it clear the center field job won't simply be handed to Pete Crow-Armstrong next spring.

Cubs' interest in Jarred Kelenic shows desire to upgrade in center field in 2024

Chicago's top-ranked prospect is undoubtedly part of the organization's long-term plans, but after his initial struggles in his first taste of MLB action last summer, there's clearly some developmental work left to do. That means the Cubs could actively explore center field additions via free agency and trade this offseason, which could give Crow-Armstrong more seasoning at Triple-A, where he's played just 34 games to this point.

The corner spots are spoken for in Ian Happ and Seiya Suzuki, both of whom are under team control for the forseeable future. Obvious opportunities to upgrade exist at both corner infield spots and in center, where Cody Bellinger was a marvel in his first (and potentially only) season in Chicago.

Reclamation projects like Kelenic make a ton of sense for the Cubs, but it's clear Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins are exploring all possible avenues early in the winter, ranging from top-dollar free agents to big-name trade targets and everything in between.