As the Cubs maneuver through a pivotal offseason, we will break down the current state of the team by sectioning it off into position groups. Here is the sixth installment on the third basemen.
The main Cubs third base question of the winter actually has nothing to do with the position at all. It's all about Kris Bryant's bat and whether or not he can return to the MVP-caliber form he put up on an annual basis before 2018.
But there are other questions in terms of how much Bryant will actually play at third base in the coming season. The Cubs always had Javy Baez as an option at the hot corner with Bryant in the outfield, but now David Bote's emergence and Daniel Descalso's arrival present a host of other options for the Cubs.
1. Kris Bryant
2. David Bote
3. Javy Baez
4. Daniel Descalso
5. Phillip Evans
Bryant is expected to be fully recovered from the shoulder injury that sapped a lot of his power in 2018 and assuming he can stay healthy, will likely return to his previous form in some capacity. That's not to say he'll be the 2019 NL MVP, but a healthy Bryant is a major force and will completely change the complexion of a Cubs lineup that fell off a cliff in the second half of last year.
But don't be surprised to see Bryant play that outfield as much as ever in 2019 for a variety of reasons. When facing tough left-handed starters, Bryant could move to a corner outfield spot and get either Jason Heyward or Kyle Schwarber out against the southpaw and another right-handed bat in the lineup in Bote.
Bote also turned a lot of heads with his stellar defense at the hot corner and when the Cubs need their best defensive lineup out there, that might mean Bryant in the outfield, Bote at third and Baez at shortstop. Bote will have to make adjustments to work back to the league after his bat was exposed down the stretch, but at the very least, he looks like he could be a glove-first utility player who can platoon against left-handed pitchers.
Baez will start the year as the Cubs' primary shortstop, but after Addison Russell's suspension is up, Baez may move back to a super-infield role, seeing regular time at short, second and third with Bryant moving to the outfield in that scenario as well.
Descalso has played almost as much third base as second base in his career to date, so he represents more depth at the hot corner. Evans, who signed as a minor league free agent earlier this winter, can also play all over the infield.
Likely nothing beyond figuring out the playing time at third base. The Cubs may not have many more moves left this winter as it is, but they surely don't need to shore up third with any more depth.
The bottom line
The focus in spring training will be on Bryant's left shoulder and even if he starts the season healthy, he'll have to prove he can make it through the full 6-7 months of a season without the injury cropping back up.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Cubs easily on your device.