Where things stand for Cubs after big deals around MLB

December 16th, 2022

CHICAGO -- Before exiting the Winter Meetings last week, Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer learned that All-Star catcher Willson Contreras had signed a five-year deal with the rival Cardinals. Contreras' departure was expected, but the news once again highlighted Chicago's need for offense.

"We'll certainly be active and continue to be actively looking to find bats," Hoyer said. "There's a lot of offseason left."

The offseason has sped up on the Cubs' front office over the past week. Most notably, free-agent shortstop targets Carlos Correa (13 years, $350 million agreement with the Giants) and Xander Bogaerts (11 years, $280 million deal with the Padres) have come off the board.

Where does that leave the Cubs in their search for offensive help? Let's walk through three positions of need.


There have been eight contracts in baseball history consisting of 11 or more years. Four of those were given to free agents. Three happened this offseason via the Correa, Bogaerts and Trea Turner (11 years, $300 million with the Phillies) pacts in this wild offseason.

That leaves one top-tier free-agent shortstop available: Dansby Swanson.

In early September, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said "the ball's in Jed's court when it comes to how and where he puts financial resources to work." Hoyer's front-office team has monetary flexibility, but the length of the deals being handed out has been stunning.

Swanson may not boast the same offensive firepower of the other three shortstops, but he offers an all-around package and is the second youngest (he will turn 29 on Feb. 11) in this group. Another factor that could help the Cubs away from the field: Swanson's wife, Mallory Pugh, plays for the Chicago Red Stars professional soccer club.

Last season, Swanson's 6.4 fWAR led the four shortstops, though much of that came from his elite defensive showing (MLB-best 21 outs above average among shortstops). Swanson has the most swing and miss in his game of the group, but he also led the way in hard-hit rate (46.1% per Statcast) in a career-best batting performance (115 OPS+) in 2022.

Adding Swanson would push Nico Hoerner to second base, giving the Cubs one of baseball's best up-the-middle duos under the updated shifting rules in 2023. Without Swanson -- the Red Sox, the Dodgers, the Twins, the Cardinals and the Braves are competitors for his services -- Hoerner would likely stay put, working with a combination of players (Nick Madrigal, Christopher Morel and Zach McKinstry) at second.


Once it was clear that a reunion with Contreras was not happening the most obvious fits for the Cubs seemed to be then-free agent Christian Vázquez or former A's catcher Sean Murphy.

Earlier this week, Oakland shipped Murphy (under contractual control for three more seasons) to the Braves as part of a three-team swap involving the Brewers. Go figure: Contreras' younger brother, catcher William Contreras, was sent to Milwaukee.

The Cubs are not focusing on trades right now, especially ones involving any top prospects, so free agency always seemed to be the more realistic avenue. Well, Vázquez then agreed to a three-year deal with the Twins, eliminating another ideal target for the North Siders.

Beyond the internal backup option in P.J. Higgins, there are still some shorter-term solutions available on the open market to pair with Cubs catcher Yan Gomes. The best available catcher heading into this week was Omar Narváez, but a source told MLB.com's Anthony DiComo on Thursday night that Narváez reached an agreement with the Mets.

Other free-agent catchers include Gary Sánchez, Tucker Barnhart and Austin Hedges, among others. The Cubs could also further explore what options exist on the trade market.

First base

The Cubs hoped to land free agent José Abreu, but that evaporated when the Astros gave the veteran a three-year contract early in the offseason. Chicago made an offer, but it did not match the length of the deal presented by the World Series champions.

Another possible fit, switch-hitter Josh Bell, came off the board this week when he joined the Guardians on a two-year, $33 million deal. The Cubs agreed to a one-year deal with Cody Bellinger, who can help at first, but that is still a position where Chicago can look to add more offense.

As the Cubs continue to balance the expected arrival of slugging first-base prospect Matt Mervis next season, one fit could be veteran free agent Trey Mancini. The 30-year-old Mancini had his best year in 2019 (.899 OPS with 35 homers) and has been a plus defender. He also boasts similar splits against righties (.265/.330/.456) and lefties (.266/.331/.459) in the Majors.

Other possibilities on the open market include Brandon Drury, Wil Myers, Brandon Belt, Dominic Smith or Matt Carpenter. The Cubs could also explore some bats for the designated hitter role. Veteran J.D. Martinez is among the available names.