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24 for ’24: Have the Cubs done enough to address their left-handed hitting?

1 month agoAndy Martinez

As the Cubs embark on a new campaign with a new manager (Craig Counsell) at the helm, we answer 24 of the most pressing questions for the 2024 season.

MESA, Ariz. — The Cubs’ most pressing question this offseason was whether Cody Bellinger would return.

Beyond his offensive numbers last season and his clubhouse leadership, Bellinger’s return signified an improvement in an area where the Cubs were admittedly vulnerable: left-handed hitting.

At the beginning of the offseason, Ian Happ — a switch-hitter — Miles Mastrobouni, Mike Tauchman, Pete Crow-Armstrong and Matt Mervis represented their only left-handed options on their 40-man spot and only Happ would be considered a roster lock, let alone a lineup fixture.

“There’s a lot of right-handed pitching in the game and it’s hard to run our lineups when you know that a guy with a good slider is gonna give you fits that night,” president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said at the Winter Meetings. “To have that kind of balance I think is really valuable on both sides. I don’t think you wanna be, especially in Wrigley that kinda favors righties a little bit, you don’t wanna be too left-handed, but I do think you need to be able to match up and balance the lineup in a good way and right now, we’re a little imbalanced.”

This offseason and spring, Hoyer and the Cubs brass went out and acquired a litany of lefties beyond Bellinger that give manager Craig Counsell plenty of options.

The Cubs went out and traded for Michael Busch, a top 100 prospect that’s major-league ready, from the Dodgers in January and plan to give him a runway at first base. The early returns seem promising, he has a pair of home runs this spring and a .996 OPS.

The team also added a pair of intriguing non-roster invites in veterans Dominic Smith and David Peralta.

Smith has a home run and a 1.318 OPS this spring after undergoing hamate surgery in the offseason. Peralta had elbow surgery in October that has hampered his start of spring. He’s expected to get into Cactus League action early this week. Both Smith (.730 OPS vs. righties) and Peralta (.817 OPS vs. righties) are solid options against righties that would allow Counsell to mix and match better against opponents.

The Cubs have a full 40-man roster, though, and creating a spot for either would be tricky, just as it was for Bellinger when the team signed him. Caleb Kilian is out till around the All-Star Game, so placing him on the 60-day IL could create one spot, but that doesn’t factor in pitchers on NRI deals who could be roster considerations.

But, if neither Smith nor Peralta makes the Opening Day roster, the Cubs seem to have done enough to combat their lack of left-handed hitting options. On Opening Day, Counsell might be able to trot out a lineup that has two left-handed bats hitting near the top or in the middle of the lineup in Happ and Bellinger, with a promising bat in Busch toward the back end of the order as well.

Couple that with bench options in Tauchman and Mastrobuoni and the Cubs feel a bit more bullish in facing those righties with good sliders that Hoyer mentioned.

24 for ’24 series

What are the Cubs expecting from Kyle Hendricks in 2024 and beyond?
What role will Drew Smyly fill on the 2024 Cubs?
How will Jameson Taillon fare in Year 2 with Cubs?
How will Shota Imanaga handle the adjustment to MLB?
Who will DH for the Cubs?
Who is the Cubs’ fifth starter?
Will defense once again be the Cubs’ strength?
Can Seiya Suzuki pick up where he left off? 
What are the Cubs’ long-term plans at first base?
Have the Cubs done enough to address their left-handed hitting?
Will Justin Steele replicate his stellar 2023 season?

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