Is Christopher Morel the key to solving the Cubs' third base puzzle?

If the young infielder can seize the third base job this spring, he could hold down the hot corner while adding 'plus' offense at the position for years to come.

San Francisco Giants v Chicago Cubs
San Francisco Giants v Chicago Cubs / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

Often the odd man out, relegated regularly to a DH role by David Ross, there's reason to expect much more Christopher Morel in the lineup moving forward. New Cubs manager Craig Counsell is very high on the young infielder and there's no questioning the pop he brings with the bat.

Last season, Morel tied with Cody Bellinger for the team lead with 26 home runs, despite taking 111 fewer at-bats. That set a new career-high for the 24-year-old utilityman, who has been regularly mentioned as a potential trade chip in the team's arsenal this offseason.

But a best-case scenario, both in the short and long-term, doesn't involve Morel playing elsewhere in 2024 - it would have him take over the everyday third base job this spring, providing a long-term answer at a position that's been pieced together in the seasons that followed Kris Bryant's peak years at the hot corner.

Cubs could have a star-in-the-making in Christopher Morel

Morel has been playing third in the Dominican Winter League - and he'll continue to work on his defense at the position before reporting to spring training in February. Of course, Jed Hoyer needs to pick a lane here: either the organization pencils him in as the projected third baseman and looks for first base/DH bats in free agency and trade, or he's a trade chip and third base remains a top area of focus.

We've heard rumors the Cubs are looking for Matt Chapman's market to soften a bit - and obviously, adding the four-time Gold and two-time Platinum Glover to an infield that already boasts a pair of Gold Glovers in Dansby Swanson and Nico Hoerner, is a huge win defensively. But there are questions about the bat and what you can expect moving forward, especially on a long-term deal.

Morel's defense has left a lot to be desired to this point. But it's worth noting he's just 24 and really hasn't enjoyed much of a 'home' in the field in his first two years in the big leagues. He's got one of the best arms in all of baseball and if he can improve his footwork at third, he could turn himself into a solid defender.

But now, we wait to see which direction the front office goes in. If Morel is on this team come Opening Day, there has to be some sort of path to everyday at-bats; otherwise, the Cubs are missing out on capitalizing on some big-time potential here.