Three corner infield options for the Cubs
David Banks - USA Today Sports

Three corner infield options for the Cubs

by - Senior Writer -

Whatever the Cubs decide to do in free agency this offseason will go a long way in determining their long-term outlook. Ideally, this team would retain Cody Bellinger in a perfect world while signing plenty of relief help and adding a starting pitcher. That would be the dream scenario, but it is a scenario that will likely not happen.

Diving into that, the Cubs know what their needs are, and they will look to address some of those needs. Two of those needs fall hand in hand as both corner infield spots appear to be the most significant issues going forward. That has been an issue for a few years now as Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant held things down since 2011 and 2015, respectively, but were traded away during the 2022 season.

With both of them no longer in the picture, the Cubs have tried virtually every possible scenario to improve those positions but have not had much luck. They hope to have some of their young guys step up shortly, but they can't sit back and wait for that to happen. They need to act now, even if it means to address it on a short-term basis.

That could be what the Cubs choose to do with the corner infield spots, and several names would be good targets for the Cubs to look at. The most obvious one is resigning Jeimer Candelario after trading for him in July of this season. Candelario has been primarily a 3B since coming into the league, but has seen time at 1B, especially this season with the Cubs.

As the days go by, it seems less likely that Bellinger will be returning to the Cubs, leaving a massive hole both in the field and the lineup. Trading for Juan Soto or Pete Alonso would help fill his void in the lineup, but they would still need someone in the field. Candelario may be a better option, but he is familiar with this team and would give the Cubs versatility to use at either 3B or 1B, depending on what else happens.

Expecting to be a bat the Cubs could count on in the middle of their lineup, Candelario got off to a blazing start over his first 13 games with the Cubs before things went south in a hurry. He missed time with a back injury and never looked comfortable at the plate once the calendar flipped to mid-August. For the season, Candelario hit .251 with 22 homers, but with the Cubs, he managed to hit just .234 across 40 games with six homers and 17 RBIs. He would be an excellent option for two years while the Cubs younger guys continue to develop.

While Candelario would be a relatively young option, some veterans could be had on the real cheap, with 1B Brandon Belt as one of those options. Belt will turn 36 at the start of 2024 and is coming off a season where he hit .254 across 103 games with the Blue Jays. That is slightly below his .261 career mark, but Belt played in more than 100 games this season after failing to reach that mark since 2019.

Belt may not be the flashiest name out there, but he is a great bat-to-ball guy, which the Cubs lineup continues to focus on. He is going to take his walks to get on base, put the ball in play, and do what he needs to help this team win. While he may be a bit costly for a 36-year-old, Belt wouldn't ask for more than a one-year deal, which plays into the Cubs hand.

Like Candelario, the Cubs may be looking for versatility in the infield, and Justin Turner could be that guy. Another guy nearing 40, Turner, is 38 years old and will turn 39 next season as he will decide whether to continue playing. After earning 11 million last season with the Red Sox, Turner is facing a 13 million dollar player option this year, which he could exercise unless he wants to try and test the market to land with a winning.

Adding Turner will not be about defense, as he isn't a great defender at third and struggled when counted on at first. Given his age, he does fit the DH role perfectly, and the Cubs could stick him there if Christopher Morel and others pan out at third. A .288 career hitter, Turner hasn't topped the .290 mark his past four seasons, but is still one of the better hitters in the game.

Despite joining a new league last season with the Red Sox, Turner proceeded to hit .276 with 23 homers and 96 RBIs in 146 games. That type of production is something any team would take, and if Turner elects to decline his player option, the Cubs would be wise to look at him to, at the very worst, bring him in as a clubhouse leader and someone to mold the young guys to take over in the coming years.

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