After missing most of the 2023 campaign with a pelvis fracture, Gio Urshela has reached free agency, and the Chicago Cubs seemingly need a third baseman on a short-term deal. Of course, the big fish still out there is Matt Chapman, but if the Cubs decide his asking price is too steep, Urshela could be a fine, cheaper alternative to bridge the gap for top prospect Matt Shaw in the coming year.
Before we pop the hood, let's look at some of the surface numbers. Since 2019, Urshela has slashed .291/.335/.452 in 1,728 at-bats. He will not give you a ton of pop, but can hit for average and drive in runs, as witnessed by his .262 batting average with runners in scoring position. He has recorded a wRC+ of at least 119 in three of the past five seasons.
Defensively, where the Cubs will certainly take a closer look, Urshela has had ups and downs. His career .967 fielding percentage at the hot corner is just below league average, and different metrics will suggest things. Here's a clear excerpt from MLB Trade Rumors from late January:
"He’s generally considered a sure-handed defender, though the advanced metrics are split on his work at the hot corner. Urshela has been credited with 10 Defensive Runs Saved and a grade of 13.5 from Ultimate Zone Rating in his career work at third, but Outs Above Average gives him a dreary -18."- MLB Trade Rumors
The Cubs have had well below average marks regarding Outs Above Average since Kris Bryant was traded in 2021. Patrick Wisdom has been near the bottom of the league with a mark of -17 over the last two seasons, and Christopher Morel has left much to be desired at the hot corner. Still, Urshela has the defensive runs saved to at least make him a viable position player on a major league roster.
Where a player like Nick Madrigal had a better season in the OOA department last year, Urshela offers the same hit-for-contact approach but with a little more pop in his bat. We know the Cubs want Morel's bat in the lineup, presumably at DH, so landing Urshela won't necessarily take away any at-bats from him. The bigger question is what will happen with Cody Bellinger.
If Bellinger and Pete Crow-Armstrong compete at the MLB level, adding in Urshela won't be for an everyday role, with Michael Busch and Morel needing ABs. Therefore, his market will have to turn into a situation where he takes whatever job he can land before he comes to Chicago.