Here’s where things stand for Cubs after Winter Meetings
SAN DIEGO -- Both Jameson Taillon and Cody Bellinger were at the top of the Cubs' wish list when they hit the free-agent market this offseason. At these Winter Meetings, Chicago landed its targets.
Per multiple sources, the North Siders reached a four-year, $68 million deal with Taillon to join the rotation and landed a former MVP and comeback candidate in Bellinger via a one-year, $17.5 million agreement. Both contracts are pending physicals, which are expected to take place next week.
"We still have a lot more work to do," Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said before departing the Manchester Grand Hyatt on Wednesday. "The offseason is far from over. But for me, it's always really important to sign guys that you target. Sometimes in free agency, you miss on your targets, and you have to kind of move down the list.
"Those are two guys that we targeted from the beginning. Obviously, Cody, once he was non-tendered [by the Dodgers], it felt like a great fit for us both in handedness and positionally. And obviously Jameson, we targeted. So it's nice to land guys that you were really focused on."
Here is a look at the Cubs' situation as the Meetings come to a close:
The only deal that was pushed across an official finish line at these Winter Meetings was a reunion with former top prospect Brailyn Marquez, who re-signed via a Minor League deal with a Spring Training invite. Marquez, 23, was non-tendered on Nov. 18 after injuries kept him out of game action in '21-22.
BIGGEST REMAINING NEEDS
With shortstop Trea Turner agreeing to an 11-year, $300 million deal with the Phillies and the Padres reaching a deal with Xander Bogaerts, the Cubs are still trying to land Carlos Correa or Dansby Swanson. By the end of these Meetings, there was a sense that Swanson might be the most realistic acquisition for the North Siders.
After the Yankees convinced superstar outfielder Aaron Judge to stay in the Bronx with a reported nine-year, $360 million deal, the Giants could potentially pivot to Correa.
Swanson may not offer the same offensive output as Correa, but the former Braves shortstop had a career year at the plate last season (115 OPS+) and was elite defensively (21 outs above average). An up-the-middle combination of Swanson and Nico Hoerner would enhance the Cubs' run prevention.
Free-agent Willson Contreras, who hit the open market as the Cubs' longest-tenured player, reportedly reached a five-year deal with the rival Cardinals on Wednesday. Chicago has veteran Yan Gomes in the fold and a capable backup in P.J. Higgins, but the Cubs remain active in trying to add more depth behind the plate (with an emphasis on defense).
"He was a Cub for a long time," Hoyer said of Contreras. "We won a World Series with him. I admire just his toughness and resilience behind the plate. He played hurt a lot. He always came to the ballpark wanting to play. Obviously, he signed with the Cardinals, but I wish him happiness. He gave us a lot of happiness and I wish him the same."
It's probable that Taillon represents the Cubs' biggest splurge for the rotation this winter, but expect Chicago to look to add more on shorter value deals. Hoyer noted that the relief market has been "aggressive," which could leave the Cubs searching for flyers similar to success stories of recent seasons (Andrew Chafin, Ryan Tepera and Chris Martin, among others).
4. First base
The Cubs have slugging prospect Matt Mervis coming, but Hoyer has noted that the team would like to build up some depth and insurance at that spot. Chicago was in on free agent José Abreu, but he signed a three-year deal with the Astros. The Cubs are surveying alternatives, but it sounds like this need has moved further down the list of priorities.
RULE 5 DRAFT
The Mariners picked right-hander Chris Clarke off the Cubs' Triple-A Iowa roster on Wednesday. Unranked by Pipeline, the 24-year-old Clarke was a fourth-round selection by the Cubs in the 2019 MLB Draft and spent last season between High-A and Double-A. In 120 1/3 innings, he had a 4.64 ERA with 110 strikeouts and 25 walks.
The Cubs did not make any selections in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft this year.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Cubs have a stronger foundation of prospects after two rebuilding seasons, but the realistic timeline for the bulk of the Pipeline talent to arrive looks like 2024-25 right now. Still, there is a path to contending in the division this year and Chicago is trying to balance that short-term goal with the long-term vision.
"We have holes we need to fill," Hoyer said. "We need to be active in the market as we move forward. It's hard to define big or small. Certainly, we have a bunch of holes. That's one of the challenges we have. Until our farm system really starts producing, which I think it will be in the next couple of years ... you have to fill more holes in free agency."