With third base slated to be handled by a combination of Nick Madrigal, Christopher Morel and Patrick Wisdom and first base likely going to Matt Mervis, the Cubs cannot head into camp with the roster as it's currently constructed.
Chicago needs to upgrade at at least one, if not both, corner infield spots this winter - which is why it was so surprising to hear the Cubs reportedly had no interest in bringing back Jeimer Candelario in free agency this winter.
"The Cubs didn’t express an interest in bringing back Jeimer Candelario, the switch-hitter acquired at this year’s trade deadline who signed a three-year, $45 million contract with the Cincinnati Reds. Candelario’s primary positions — third base and first base — are areas in which the Cubs can look for more impact or shorter-term commitments."- Patrick Mooney, The Athletic
Candelario turned in one of the best offensive seasons of his career heading into free agency, showcasing solid power with a career-high 22 home runs to go along with 39 doubles and an .807 OPS. Capable of playing both first and third base and a switch-hitter, he'll add some versatility to the Reds roster in 2024.
Reunited with his former team in a trade deadline move as the Cubs looked to make a second-half run, Candelario's production sharply tailed off in Chicago as injuries limited his effectiveness (103 OPS+ post-trade in 157 PA) - but that didn't hurt his market this winter, evidenced by the three-year deal he got from Cincinnati.
Cubs face major questions at both corner infield spots - ones that Jeimer Candelario could have answered in a big way
Jed Hoyer could add some clarity to the infield picture by choosing a path with Morel, who could, at least in theory, be the everyday third baseman. He'd be a bat-first guy, but with a pair of Gold Glovers up the middle in the infield, maybe that's acceptable. His winter ball glovework left plenty to be desired, and we really don't know whether he'll be a third base or wearing a different uniform come Opening Day.
The top free agents at first and third base have both been connected to the Cubs this winter in Matt Chapman and Cody Bellinger, although it's hard to envision a scenario Chicago signs both guys. Longtime Phillies staple Rhys Hoskins is another potential fit at first - showcasing some of the options available even with Candelario off the board.
Not pursuing Candelario is fine. But not improving the corner spots in another fashion would be a major failure on the part of the front office. There is a number of ways Hoyer can go about accomplishing this - but passing on Candelario only to stand pat with a subpar corner infield combo just won't get it done.