Cubs have few paths to a successful offseason without a FA SS

Minnesota Twins v Chicago White Sox
Minnesota Twins v Chicago White Sox / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

Almost everyone seems to agree that the Chicago Cubs' offseason revolves around the big four free agent shortstops. In order to give Jed Hoyer a win and set the team up for a competitive 2023 season, it seems like they have to land one of those guys. Do they really have to though?

For full disclosure, I am firmly in the camp of yes, they should spend on one of these guys to supplement a core that keeps getting better as more young talent comes up. They should do other things too, like signing a short-term first baseman like Jose Abreu, adding Kodai Senga and another arm to the rotation, and finding a catcher and center fielder to slot in, but those things alone do not make a successful offseason. There needs to be a real, tangible superstar addition to draw fans back in after a massive Marquee viewership decline and the lowest attendance since the 90s.

Landing one of the shortstops is going to be no easy feat though. For sure, the Cubs have had strong connections to Carlos Correa and Trea Turner, plus it's easy to see how shorter deals for Dansby Swanson or Xander Bogaerts best fit Jed Hoyer's plans. Unfortunately, 29 other teams exist and upwards of nine are expected to be in the shortstop market. In that sense, it's important to look at where the Cubs could find success should all overtures fail.

A successful Chicago Cubs offseason is improbable if they miss a shortstop.

The most realistic route for the Cubs to explore for a superstar bat this offseason would be the trade market and while there are interesting options, there are few realistic pieces that would move the needle in the way one of the four shortstops would. Immediately, Shohei Ohtani comes to mind, but the Angels put those rumors to bed recently, so it's fair to say nothing's happening there barring a change in tune. Ditto Bryan Reynolds, who would ensure a stellar center field bat for at least the next three years, but is also unlikely to be traded per Jon Morosi and is EXTRA unlikely to be dealt with in the division.

Rafael Devers would be a stellar fit, given he's a third baseman, only 26, and is coming off his best offensive season by wRC+ with a 140 mark, but is also a major extension candidate for the Boston Red Sox barring a complete collapse in talks. Other offensive targets matching the caliber of the four shortstops, for the most part, haven't materialized. Matched with a top-heavy free agency for bats, that leaves little avenue for significant offensive improvement outside of a series of smaller trades and acquisitions if the Cubs fail to land a shortstop.

Another avenue that could work would be to make two major pitching signings rather than one. Ideally, that would be Carlos Rodon and Senga on top of the other moves. The problem, however, is that Hoyer has also especially expressed a disinterest in signing a pitcher like Rodon to a longer deal.
They're simply not expected to be players for big-name pitchers like Rodon, Jacob deGrom, or Justin Verlander if Jesse Rogers' appearance on the Carmen and Jurko show is to be believed

In fairness, neither would have the long-term superstar impact of one of the shortstops. Though, any one of those, with Senga or another addition, could turn the team into a pitching juggernaut in the short term, paving the way for future offensive improvements. Barring a signing, the trade market could see some interesting options like Pablo Lopez, Lucas Giolito, and Tyler Glasnow, but none really represent superstar additions for one reason or another. With the attitude towards quality innings instead of a true ace, the pitching-heavy approach doesn't seem particularly likely.

Next. It's Dansby Swanson or bust for Braves at Shortstop. dark

Never say never on a potential target popping up as we move along this offseason, but the fact remains that the most straightforward path to a successful offseason runs through the shortstops. There's no one move readily available this offseason that matches the long-term impact of one of the big four. It's just another reason that the Cubs need to be willing to be aggressive and step out of their comfort zone for one of these players.