We've already heard it numrous times: the Chicago Cubs will be exploring some of the big-name shortstops on the market this offseason. The list includes the likes of Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts (opt-outs), Trea Turner and Dansby Swanson. If Jed Hoyer manages to land one of these big fish, there will be some shuffling in the middle of the infield. It is safe to assume Nico Hoerner will be part of the future plans, but second baseman Nick Madrigal seems a bit less certain.
Madrigal, 25, played in his first year as a Cub in 2022. The slappy-hitting second baseman had another injury-riddled season which limited him to 59 games. He struggled at the plate in the first few months but hit a solid .277/.348/.317 in his final 28 games, including a .300 mark in August. While it looked like he was turning a corner late, more injury issues arose and ended his season in early September. Madrigal was the White Sox first round pick (fourth overall) in 2018 out of Oregon State, and was a top prospect coming up on the South Side. With years of control, he looked like a long-term solution at second when he was acquired in the Craig Kimbrel trade in 2021, but now that might not be the case.
Cubs will have to see how Nick Madrigal fits into the big picture
Madrigal's defensive role on the team is really just second base. If the Cubs plan to be competitive next year and beyond, they will not want a non-run producer with no power slotted in the DH spot. There is also little chance he moves over to third as he has never played there before and does not have the arm to throw across the diamond.
It really could depend on how this plays out. Correa, Turner and Swanson have played zero games at third base in the big leagues, and if one of them were to come the expectation would be them playing shortstop. This scenario likely moves Hoerner to second, where he has played before. Could the Cubs try to shift one of these free agents to third? Maybe, but their value as infielders is at short and the Cubs want to start winning in 2023. Now, if the Cubs were to land a guy like Bogaerts, that is a guy you can plug in at third. That potentially allows Chicago to keep Hoerner at shortstop and Madrigal at second. There is always the possibility they do not land any of these guys and things in the middle infield stay as they are...but that would be a worst case scenario.
The tender deadline is just less than a month away, it would be shocking if Madrigal was non-tendered. As previously mentioned, he has years of control remaining and is just 25. He showed his upside on the South Side, hitting .317 in 83 games in 2020-2021, so the potential of him being a good contact hitter in the Majors is there. If the Cubs decided to move on after tendering him a deal, then he could be included in a trade package. Just letting him go for nothing before making a big splash would not seem like a wise move. There is also the possibility he sticks with the team, at least short-term, as a bench bat even if his normal starting position is taken away. Not sure how likely that is but time will tell.
If Madrigal can finally have a healthy season, he can have value on a competitive MLB roster. He started to show those glimpses even on the Cubs last year. The real question is if that potential can be reached here or if he'll have to seek that opportunity out elsewhere.