2024 Cubs Free Agent Target: Gio Urshela
Gary Vasquez - USA Today Sports

2024 Cubs Free Agent Target: Gio Urshela

by - Senior Writer -

It's hard to believe that the first official Spring training game is less than a month away, with pitchers and catchers set to report in roughly two weeks. What is even harder to believe is that there are so many free agents still left unsigned, and a large number of them could help the Cubs in some way.

That is starting to become a mystery with this team as you continue to hear them linked to Matt Chapman, Cody Bellinger, and now Jordan Montgomery. Yet, neither the Cubs nor Scott Boras can come to an agreement on what his players are worth, hence why we are embarked on a massive stalemate.

Unless some traction is made soon, some of the big names may be left unsigned heading into spring, which no one saw coming when free agency got underway. How the Cubs and other teams will address that situation is an entirely different story, but you know they will not wait forever for someone to make a decision.

It's no secret that the middle of the Cubs infield with Dansby Swanson and Nico Hoerner may be the best in baseball, but the Cubs could be getting even better in the infield. That is one of the biggest reasons why they are targeting Chapman, and if the asking price for Bellinger doesn't come down, he could become their primary focus.

While it seems like a good strategy, you have to consider if that is a good idea, as Matt Shaw is expected to get plenty of reps heading into the season at third and appears to be on the fast track to the majors. If that is the case, signing Chapman doesn't make sense, as he would block Shaw. Knowing that the Cubs may shy away from adding anyone at third unless they can do it for a short-term deal to act as a placeholder.

Justin Turner made a ton of sense for that, but after signing with the Blue Jays, he is off the board. Another player who could serve as a placeholder and would be a cheaper option to use at third could be 32-year-old Gio Urshela, who remains a free agent nearing spring. Urshela has been around since 2015 as part of the Guardians organization, but later in his career, he really started to show his potential. He was what you call a late bloomer, but now that he has blossomed, he is a very consistent player who produces.

After playing in 81 games as a rookie and hitting .225 with six homers and 21 RBIs, Urshela missed the 2016 season as injuries and spending time in AAA played a massive role in that. One season later, we saw Urshela begin the year in AAA before returning to the majors, as he played in 67 games. One year later, it was a similar story, as he found himself doing minimal damage in 18 games with Toronto.

That means, in a three-year stretch, Urshela played in just over a season's worth of games, hitting around .230 and producing at a minimal clip. He looked like a part-time player. All it took for Urshela to show what he could do as a player was a fresh opportunity as he got it with the New York Yankees in 2019. In his first season, Urshela played in 132 games and hit a career-best .314 with a career-high 21 homers and 74 RBIs.

He followed that up with 159 games across the 2020 (Covid) and 2021 seasons with the Yankees, combining to hit .279 with 20 homers and 79 RBIs, before landing in Minnesota for the 2022 season.

With the Twins, Urshela was the everyday third baseman and went on to play in a career-high 144 games. He hit a .285 that season, but with 13 homers and 64 RBIs, the production level was still there despite a dip in power.

That four-year run made him one of the more intriguing options heading into free agency last offseason, and it was the Los Angeles Angels who pounced on him to give him a one-year deal. Despite declining power numbers, Urshela was off to a great start, hitting .299 with two homers in 24 RBIs in 69 games. His season was cut short due to an injury, and he will now be looking for a new home this season.

Adding Urshela may not be a move many thought about before the start of free agency, but if the Cubs are looking for a short-term player to keep the hot corner warm, he makes sense. Urshela is going to hit for a good average as he hasn't dipped below .265 since 2017, while he does have 20-plus homer potential. Granted, his best power-hitting days are behind him, but given his ability to make contact, he can still drive runners in, which is all you can ask for.

When it comes to an asking price, Urshela is 32 years old and has a few years left in the tank, but he is nearing the end of his career. This would be one of those players the Cubs could give a one- or two-year contract with a total amount of nearly 15 million. Should he produce close to what he has over the past four years, it would be a bargain pickup and allow the Cubs to bring Shaw up aggressively, but wouldn't be forced to call him up too soon.

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