During the MLB Winter meetings in Nashville, Tennessee, Chicago Cubs manager Craig Counsell alluded to Christopher Morel finding more playing time on the field next season.
While speaking to Marquee Sports Network reporters Bruce Levine and Taylor McGregor, Counsell praised the 24-year-old Morel for not only having a great year at the plate but also for his versatility on defense which has frankly been underutilized by the team.
"Chris Morel, you know, needs to be in the lineup and he needs to be on the field. And he's earned that. Look, there are some players that are multi-position players and that's okay. Mookie Betts has been a very good multi-position player for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Last year for the Cubs, Cody Bellinger was a very good multi-position player."- Craig Counsell, via Marquee
Under previous manager David Ross, Morel started the vast majority of his games in the designated hitter role which limited the lineup possibilities for the team. Morel's strongest position is second base, but the team will obviously be starting Nico Hoerner in that spot at least for the next three years. The story is similar at virtually every other position Morel can play, including shortstop (Dansby Swanson has six years left on his deal) and the corner outfield spots (Ian Happ and Seiya Suzuki both hit free agency in 2027).
Cubs searching for a defensive home for Christopher Morel
Morel has seen significant time in center field during his career so far and he could potentially split time there with Pete Crow-Armstrong. But if the Cubs bring Cody Bellinger back (a move that seems like a long shot right now), both Morel and Crow-Armstrong will likely be blocked in center field.
That leaves third base, where Morel primarily played in 2022. Was he fantastic at the position? Not particularly. But that is where he will likely find most of his playing time because it is wide open for him to take and Counsell seems willing to let him figure it out. He certainly won't get any better on the field if he's sitting in the dugout most of the year. It should be a primary goal this offseason for Morel to get better defensively at third base and that's not a tall order.
Nick Madrigal, a natural second baseman, became an adequate defender at third base in 2023. Patrick Wisdom also vastly improved his skills at the hot corner during his tenure with the Cubs. But Morel has better upside with his bat than both of those guys as he smacked 26 home runs and drove in 70 in just 107 games. And if he can improve his defense to adequate and make the routine plays, then the Cubs could have a third baseman for years to come as he's not set to even hit arbitration until 2026.
"So, you know I think good players find their way onto the field, they find their way into the lineup. And I think that's where were at with Morel, that's where I'm at with Morel. And he's earned that by the way he's played. It's an exciting young player that offesnively continues to get better. Because he doesn't have one position, to me is not a concern it's just a place where we have some versatility and we're going to take advantage of that"- Craig Counsell, via Marquee
Not to mention if the Cubs to happen to sign Shohei Ohtani, the team won't have a choice but to either have Morel play third base or trade him. The same can be said if they trade for Juan Soto who would also likely be a designated hitter with the Cubs' current roster. Having Morel in the field simply unlocks more possibilities for the Cubs.