The departure of Javier Baez at the 2021 trade deadline left Cubs fans searching desperately for a player to latch onto that could bring that same level of energy, flair and theatrics to the diamond on a nightly basis.
That wait didn't last long, though, as Christopher Morel burst onto the scene in 2022 and has quickly become a fan favorite on the North Side. But, as Cubs fans know, their love alone won't keep players in Chicago - and, as was the case with Baez for some time prior to his getting traded to New York two-plus years ago, Morel is now the subject of trade rumors as the MLB offseason picks up steam.
In comments this week, Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer seemed to leave the door wide open on a potential Morel trade.
"It’s hard. Some of that is based on his skill set, and some of that is based on our personnel. I think he’s a very capable second baseman, but we have a guy who’s won a Gold Glove. So that’s not the spot we’re going to put him. I think another team may be able to put him there and have him be able to do that."- Jed Hoyer on Christopher Morel
Morel has come up with some big-time hits in his brief Cubs career - few bigger than his improbable walk-off at Wrigley this summer to sink the crosstown rival White Sox.
But for all his successes, his game isn't without holes. He's got a ton of swing-and-miss in his approach at the plate and hasn't really found a place defensively where he's a 'plus' with the glove. With shortstop and second base locked down by Dansby Swanson and Nico Hoerner for the forseeable future, Morel is looking more and more like the odd man out.
Cubs may be forced to trade Christopher Morel, despite his upside
In an ideal world, Morel would have taken the third base job this year and run with it. Instead, he put up -7 OAA on the year defensively and just never seemed to get his feet under him at the hot corner. That led to the Cubs bringing in Jeimer Candelario at the trade deadline, although that move may have happened regardless given the team's struggles at first base, as well.
Trading Morel won't be easy - not because he doesn't have value but because it'll take Hoyer and one of the other 29 teams in the league finding some sort of middle ground. He's got flaws, yes, but he's got tremendous upside, as well. Under team control through the end of the 2028 season, so he's likely viewed as too valuable to just flip for one year of a player in return, even if that player is a superstar like Pete Alonso (although I'd say Juan Soto could be the exception to this rule).
With a weak free agent class - at least one that lacks depth - the trade market could be busier than we've seen it in years. And it's hard to argue the Cubs have a more valuable trade chip on the big league roster than Morel, regardless of how much the fanbase loves this kid.