After J.D. Martinez and Justin Turner traded places by signing the Dodgers and Red Sox, respectively, the Cubs lost a couple viable options to boost their lineup at a low cost. Turner’s deal is a little richer at $22.7 million over two years (with additional incentives), but Martinez got just $10 million over one season with LA. That’s exactly the type of deal the Cubs should be looking for as they seek both roster and payroll flexibility moving forward.
Of course, neither of those two aging sluggers was connected to the Cubs outside of online fanfic. The two names we’ve seen most often and most recently are Trey Mancini and Michael Conforto, to the extent that it feels the Cubs have done more than just talk internally about them. Given the team’s frequent contact with Scott Boras and the acquisition of Cody Bellinger as a bounceback opportunity, Conforto sure seems like a possibility.
There are still a lot of other options out there, though, all of whom have played long enough for their once sterling reputations to have developed a little patina. That’s not a problem for the Cubs, who are specifically looking for a little grit and a blemish or three on their remaining pickups. Or maybe it’s not so much that they’re seeking those things out as they’re left with no choice at this point. But hey, if it means being able to keep the deal short, so be it.
Before we start digging into specific names, I want to show you a few salient numbers and let you form some more objective opinions on which player might be the best fit. Below are three third basemen and five first base/DH types, with age shown as what they will be for the 2023 season.
Based on numbers alone, I’d take either A or B from the first group and then D from the second group. You may have already guessed who that latter player is based on his incredible numbers from ’22, but his career numbers are better than his colleagues in nearly every category as well. I’m a little concerned with how G and H fell off from their career marks, so I suppose my second choice from that group would be Player F.
A lot of that has to do with him being a right-handed batter, which fits better in a platoon with Matt Mervis. If you’d like to take a moment to select your own favorites without knowing who they are, try to keep your eyes from drifting down for just a moment. Got ’em? Okay, here we go.
The group of third basemen was made up of Evan Longoria, Brandon Drury, and Gleyber Torres. While the latter isn’t a free agent and has never played third base in the big leagues — he has 187 total professional innings there from 2017-18 — it makes sense to cast a wider net than just signing aging players. That said, I think the Cubs would much prefer to part with money over prospects.
The headliner from that second group is none other than Matt Carpenter, who has drawn “a level of interest” from the Cubs brass this winter. As wild as his numbers were in limited action for the Yankees, dude is an excellent hitter and could excel in a DH role. The next player on the list is Eric Hosmer, who would cost the Cubs almost nothing because the Red Sox just DFA’d him.
Hosmer has been a frequent topic of conversation over the last year or so as a player the Cubs wanted to trade for in order to pick up a prospect as part of the deal. The big hurdle at the time was the remaining time and money on his contract, which has now been effectively eliminated. Though he’d be a little redundant because he’s a lefty batter, the low cost could be appealing.
Next up is Hosmer’s former Padres teammate Wil Myers, who was the player I identified as my second choice among the 1B/DH players. Then it’s longtime Giant Brandon Belt and well-traveled masher Luke Voit, neither of whom really does much for me. Voit would supply a little more power, but I’d just as soon see the Cubs roll with Patrick Wisdom if that’s what they’re looking for.
What it comes down to is that there aren’t any perfect options here, so it’s really a matter of trying to maximize value over a one- or two-year deal. If that’s the case, I guess the Cubs should go out and get either Drury or Longoria and then see if Carpenter still has any pop remaining. With Wisdom, Christopher Morel, Zach McKinstry, and Miles Mastrobuoni all on the roster for the time being, it’s not as though Jed Hoyer is seeking someone who can play every day anyway.