The 5 big offseason questions for the Cubs

October 28th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Jordan Bastian’s Cubs Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

1. Can the Cubs land one of the big-ticket free-agent shortstops?

This will be the biggest question on the collective mind of Cubs fans when Hot Stove season gets underway. , , and could all be on the open market this winter, and there is certainly a fit on the North Side.

Chicago has a need for offensive firepower, and manager David Ross prioritizes strong defense. The team has roster flexibility and the financial means. Internally, has proven he can handle short, but he is an exceptional defender who has also expressed a willingness to move to second base in the name of winning.

This all adds up to the Cubs potentially being a major player in this sector of the open market.

2. How will the rotation be addressed?

The Cubs have under contract for 2023, and lefty has earned a rotation spot as well. There is a heap of question marks beyond those two.

will be returning from a right shoulder injury. might be best utilized as a multi-inning relief weapon. and could hit free agency. The good news here is that the Cubs’ in-house depth here appears as solid as it has been in years. looks like an up-and-coming talent, and there is more coming from the pipeline.

That said, the Cubs could really use some more strength at the top. That could mean finding some smart shorter-term deals in free agency (much like Stroman’s three-year deal last year) or maybe considering an intriguing option like righty Kodai Senga, who is expected to be a free agent out of Japan.

3. Who will play center field in 2023?

There are prospects coming (among them Pete Crow-Armstrong, Alexander Canario and Brennen Davis), but the Cubs will need to find a way to shore up center next season. Names like Cody Bellinger or Kevin Kiermaier could be interesting targets if they hit the open market. is an in-house option, but the fact is that the Cubs’ defense in center (MLB-worst negative-18 Defensive Runs Saved in ’22) must be addressed. Morel looks like a better fit as a super utilityman.

4. What’s the plan for first base?

The Cubs entered the offseason without a clear-cut answer for first base. Highly touted prospect Matt Mervis is rising fast and wields a powerful bat, but Chicago should have a stopgap plan in place. That is why reports of interest in a veteran free agent like José Abreu have already surfaced. has mostly played third, but he can help at first, too. was given a shot in ’22 but went through plenty of ups and downs. Mervis’ time will come, but pairing him with another player -- on Opening Day or later in the summer -- is probably the smarter play as he breaks into the Majors.

5. Bottom line: Can the Cubs build a realistic contender for 2023?

The 87-win Phillies reached the World Series. The 93-win Cardinals won the National League Central. There is definitely a path for the Cubs to push for an October berth in ’23. Chicago played at a 90-win pace in the second half. That should be a foundation to build upon, especially with a stronger farm system, vastly improved internal pitching depth and some clear holes in a year when the free-agent market has plenty of possible solutions.