If this is the Cubs' third base plan, the front office has failed this winter

Running back the same tandem we saw in 2023 - one that needed reinforcements at the trade deadline - would be a negligent move on the part of Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins.

Chicago Cubs v Toronto Blue Jays
Chicago Cubs v Toronto Blue Jays / Mark Blinch/GettyImages

Pitchers and catchers report in Florida and Arizona next week, marking the official start of spring training and another Major League Baseball season. For a Cubs team that still seems several pieces away from being an improved team over 2023, that's somewhat troubling, but with the number of impact free agents still available, further additions are still very much a possibility.

But in their latest Cubs roundup over at The Athletic (subscription required), Patrick Mooney and Sahadev Sharma seem less convinced than ever that Cody Bellinger returning is a sure thing and, barring an unexpected pursuit of Matt Chapman, they believe Chicago will run it back with Nick Madrigal and Patrick Wisdom at third this year.

To say that would be a disappointment is the understatement of the offseason. Wisdom is, very clearly, best served as a platoon power bat off the bench. His defense has trended in the wrong direction the last couple years and when placed in ill-fated matchups, the swing-and-miss in his game erases the value his power can bring at the plate.

His .500 slugging percentage saved his OPS+ number in 2023, given the fact he carried a .205 batting average and a sub-.300 OBP in 302 plate appearances. The guy hits homers, sure, but there's little else he provides at the plate besides a lot of strikeouts. Throw in a subpar glove and it's hard to see how he can be considered a serious solution at the hot corner.

Nick Madrigal is the better option of the two, but it's Christopher Morel who should be the everyday third baseman for the Chicago Cubs

Madrigal seems to have the higher floor of the two, given his bat-to-ball skills, but since coming to the Cubs in the Craig Kimbrel trade in 2021, as Sharma and Mooney point out, he's never consistently produced in the way Hoyer hoped for when acquiring him.

Last year, Madrigal batted .263/.311/.352 and checked in more than 20 percent below league average when it comes to OPS+. The complete lack of power in his game necessitates him finding hits and getting on base to have any shot at even cracking the league average mark as a hitter, and he just hasn't done that of late - nor has he provided any real hard hit balls, another troubling mark.

Defensively, he surprised a lot of folks in 2023, overcoming his 5-8 frame to become an above-average third baseman, although there are still valid concerns over his arm strength. Madrigal is fine as a bench bat, a guy you call on to put the ball in play or give your everyday third baseman (or second baseman) a day off. But given the lack of production we've seen, I don't know how you can confidently say he's your guy at third heading into camp.

For me, personally, the job has to belong to Christopher Morel. I talked about how Madrigal has the high floor, but with Morel, it's the ceiling you're focused on. This guy was one of the Cubs' most dynamic offensive threats last season and, one way or another, you have to find a way to have him in the lineup on a daily basis. His glovework at third has, frankly, not been good, but the offensive upside, at least for me, is cause enough to give him a long runway and see if he can sort the defense out over the course of a full season.

But under no circumstances can the Cubs look at Madrigal and Wisdom as the answer at third. That's not an acceptable solution at the position, especially when you have Morel in-house and the offseason's top free agent third baseman is still out there, looking for a home.