The Cubs made their biggest move of the winter, handing out their most expensive deal since Jason Heyward when they agreed to terms with Dansby Swanson on Saturday. That signing creates what could be the best middle infield in baseball from a defensive standpoint, but Swanson can only be counted on to provide slightly above-average offense. The likelihood that the Cubs will also go glove-first at catcher — I say it’ll be Tucker Barnhart and I think they’ll make a move soon — makes it imperative that they add pop elsewhere.
Bruce Levine spoke to that when he joined Lance Brozdowski Saturday afternoon on Marquee Sports Network’s Cubs 360 show. When presented with Ryan Dempster‘s projected lineup for 2023, Levine had a suggestion for what might change.
“Michael Conforto is missing from this lineup,” Levine said. “Eventually, I think a guy like Conforto will be in there because they need a DH, they need someone to work with Mervis. There’s other names that are gonna be out there as well, but the lineup looks better.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard Conforto’s name connected to the Cubs this offseason, with Jon Heyman recently noting the team’s potential pursuit. There have been suggestions that adding a lefty-batting outfielder could mean the Cubs are trying to flip Ian Happ as he heads into his final season of club control, though there’s still a chance to extend Happ at a reasonable rate. Given the DH spot, their success at negotiating a long-term deal will have a lot more to do with Happ’s future than just signing Conforto.
One other very interesting wrinkle to note here is that the Cubs have already added a Scott Boras client who is looking to rebuild his value following shoulder surgery. Cody Bellinger slots in as the everyday center fielder and can also play first base, so the template has been established. Levine noted that Conforto would be sort of a mentor for Matt Mervis, which would be as a professional hitter rather than a first baseman.
Should the Cubs choose to find someone to set more of an example from a positional standpoint, they might opt for Trey Mancini. The right-handed hitter has spent a lot of time at first and DH, so he’d be able to serve as a traditional platoon partner while supplying a decent degree of power. Levine mentioned Mancini on 670 The Score Saturday morning and it feels like the connection has legs.
We should note that Levine used the phrase “someone like” ahead of both name drops, so this does feel like one of those situations in which the Cubs are still exploring several players to see how they fit. It’s also a matter of them accepting the kind of deal the Cubs find acceptable. Both Mancini and Conforto would fit individually and could make sense in tandem based on how the roster currently sets up.
With Swanson in the fold, it feels like there’s solid momentum to get these other moves made quickly.