The Cubs have a need at shortstop.
They also have financial flexibility for the first time in several offseasons.
Does that mean they need to add a big-name shortstop in free agency?
The Cubs have a lot of needs to address this winter, starting with the rotation. But if there ever was a time to look to the open market for a shortstop, it’s now. Five All-Stars are free agents, including old friend Javy Báez.
What it might take for the Cubs to land one from that group — which also features Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Trevor Story and Marcus Semien — in a competitive market is another story. Each player comes with caveats and perhaps narrow windows for the Cubs.
If the Cubs go big-name hunting, what are their chances of coming away with one of the trophies?
Correa makes the most sense for the Cubs in an ideal world. The two-time All-Star is coming off one of his finest seasons offensively. He finished fourth in MLB in bWAR (7.2) and also won his first Gold Glove Award.
Although the Cubs have around a half dozen shortstop prospects in their farm system, Correa has expressed a willingness to move to third base. He could fit the Cubs’ plans during this transition period and next contention window.
Indications are Correa is seeking a deal in the neighborhood of 10 years and $300+ million. He only turned 27 in September, so that type of deal would cover a chunk of his prime years.
The Cubs have signaled they’re not going near the top end of the market this winter. So what are the chances they land the best fit off it?
As our friend David Kaplan might say, no shot.
Seager is the next guy in line to get paid a lot of money this winter. He and Correa are the top shortstops on the market. In fact, Scott Boras, his agent, believes the longtime Dodger is the top shortstop available.
Boras isn’t the only one in the industry who thinks that of Seager. He’s a power lefty bat with with recent postseason success. He turns 28 next April, making him the second youngest shortstop in this group.
Like Correa, the Cubs won’t be in the market for the type of deal Seager will command this winter.
Story is a two-time All-Star with dramatic home and road offensive splits in his career. Teams are skeptical of Rockies free agents due to the nature of hitter-friendly Coors Field but he has a pair of Silver Slugger Awards on his résumé.
Story was dealing with an arm issue in 2021 but told NBC Sports Chicago in August his arm is fine. Like Correa and Seager, he's attached to a qualifying offer, so the Cubs would have to surrender draft compensation to add him.
Whether you can eliminate Story with Correa and Seager, that's where things get interesting between Báez and Semien.
If the Mets want to re-sign Báez, they can get him back. He’s expressed his desire to play alongside good friend Francisco Lindor in the past and the trade from the Cubs in July paved the way.
A report out of New York suggests Báez could sign before a potential lockout in two weeks, and that same report mentions the Mets as one of “several” teams pursuing Báez.
If the Mets don’t re-sign him, his market could get very interesting. There’s uncertainty where that market will fall.
Some teams love Báez, a dynamic fielder and baserunner with a power bat. Some are scared of his propensity to swing and miss and high strikeout totals.
The Cubs know Báez as well as anybody.
Báez had years of success in Chicago and is a fan favorite. His agent and the team have had a good relationship over the years. New York was an ideal landing spot, but he talked glowingly about Chicago and his time there late in the 2021 season.
“Chicago’s always going to be home for me,” Báez told NBC Sports Chicago’s Gordon Wittenmyer.
Semien is also attached to a qualifying offer. He's coming off an All-Star season with the Blue Jays in which he finished third in AL MVP voting.
Semien played second base in 2021 for Toronto — and won his first Gold Glove — but has spent the rest of his nine-year big-league career at shortstop.
The Cubs top shortstop prospects are several years away from their big-league debuts. Semien hired Scott Boras as his agent last month and may play out the market.
At 31, Semien is the oldest of the shortstops listed here. Depending on his market, he could fit the Cubs on a short-term deal, manning shortstop and providing impact offense until those prospects reach the big leagues.