Projecting the 2023 Cubs roster
This offseason has the potential to go many different ways for the Cubs.
There are a multitude of players at the top of the free agent market that would fit well on this Cubs roster. Jed Hoyer’s front office could also opt to make a big trade this winter, leveraging some of the organization’s young talent to acquire impact players at the big-league level.
No matter what, the Cubs will certainly add some new names to the roster below, though Hoyer wasn’t ready to tip his hand at his end-of-season press conference last month.
“Last season, we talked a lot about intelligent spending and we’ll certainly look to do that again,” Hoyer said. “I want to build on the momentum that we created at the end of the year but I know that we have some holes to fill and we’ll be aggressive to try to fill those holes in the best way possible.
“I think we can definitely compete next year and we also want to create something lasting and special, so we’re always gonna have to keep those two things in mind. I believe that a successful offseason does involve filling those holes that we know we saw.”
As Hoyer said, there’s certainly a desire from the Cubs to build on the team’s successful second half where they went 39-31 even after trading away half the bullpen.
And there are definitely holes on the roster that the Cubs need to address this winter.
With the World Series over and the offseason beginning in earnest, let’s take a look at what the Cubs roster looks like now and where they need to add talent.
Disclaimer: This is not a prediction of who the Cubs will acquire in the offseason, but rather a look at how the roster shakes out at this current moment and areas the front office will need to address.
Unless Willson Contreras accepts the qualifying offer or reaches an agreement on a long-term deal, the Cubs will head into next season with a new full-time backstop for the first time since 2016.
Gomes was exactly as advertised in 2022 — a veteran backstop who brought stability to the position behind Willson Contreras and worked well with the pitching staff. But he’ll also turn 36 next year and posted a .625 OPS, so the Cubs could be in the market for another catcher to pair with Gomes.
Higgins represents solid depth and can also play first and third base.
Hoerner enjoyed a breakout 2022 campaign and entrenched himself as one of the faces of the franchise. If the Cubs don’t sign one of the top shortstops on the free agent market, they’re in a good spot with Hoerner handling the position. But if the team does add a big-time player, Hoerner could move to second base and improve the roster better at multiple positions.
Wisdom saw a bit of a dip last season compared to his strong rookie season in 2021 but he still provides game-changing power, defensive versatility and a solid all-around game. The Cubs could also opt to platoon Wisdom and Rivas or McKinstry at one of the corner infield spots.
Madrigal struggled to stay healthy in his first year on Chicago’s North Side but flashed his potential in August (.300 AVG, .715 OPS) and has compiled 2.4 WAR in 142 career MLB games.
Morel burst onto the scene in mid-May and earned a spot on the roster and in the starting lineup for the rest of the season. He can play a variety of positions — including the outfield. Given that he essentially skipped Triple-A and he just turned 23 in June, Morel still has some development left.
Rivas provides solid glove at first base and a left-handed bat but not much power (3 HR in 2022) for a premium offensive position. McKinstry was acquired at the trade deadline and adds depth and another left-handed option all over the infield.
Brennen Davis/Alexander Canario
Nelson Velázquez/Darius Hill
Happ (left) and Suzuki (right) have the corners locked down and also figure to hit in the middle of the Cubs lineup. Happ earned his first All-Star nod and Gold Glove in 2022 but is only signed through next season (he is a free agent after 2023). Suzuki battled injuries and a major culture change in his first season in the U.S. He was still 6th on the Cubs in WAR (2.0), is only 28 and under contract through 2026.
The Cubs have a pair of intriguing young outfield prospects on the rise in the farm system in Davis and Canario, but both carry injury question marks. Davis missed much of 2022 with a back injury and Canario just recently suffered serious ankle and shoulder injuries in Winter Ball.
Canario hit 37 homers with 97 RBI and an .899 OPS in the minors in 2022 and performed well at Triple-A Iowa to end the season. Davis began the year at Iowa and was expected to make his MLB debut at some point in 2022 before the back injury derailed his year. Canario is already on the 40-man roster and Davis will be added this winter.
Velázquez got his first taste of big-league action in 2022 and could enter next season as the backup outfielder in Chicago. Hill is expected to be added to the 40-man roster this winter and adds a high-average left-handed bat to the mix who can play all three outfield positions.
Morel could be part of the equation in the outfield too and both Rivas and McKinstry have played outfield in the past.
The Cubs are heading into next season with Reyes penciled in as the everyday DH. The 27-year-old had a down 2022 season but hit 30 homers in 2021 and sent 37 balls into the seats in 2019.
He had a career .260 batting average and .828 OPS entering 2022 so if he can return to form, he represents a big bat the Cubs need in the middle of the lineup.
This is one of the toughest position groups to try to predict given all the options — which is actually a good thing for the Cubs. The organization is in a much stronger position with their pitching staff than at this time a year ago, even if there are some question marks.
The Cubs will likely add to this group in free agency or via trade but Stroman and Steele are locked into rotation spots after strong 2022 seasons and Hendricks will join them if he is fully recovered from a shoulder injury.
Wesneski is one of the organization’s top pitching prospects and was very impressive down the stretch. Sampson provided stability to the rotation over the season’s final few months and continues to take advantage of opportunities.
The Cubs also have the likes of Keegan Thompson, Javier Assad, Adbert Alzolay and Caleb Kilian as in-house rotation options.
Mark Leiter, Jr.
This group figures to look very different come Spring Training, as the Cubs will undoubtedly add some other options to the reliever mix this offseason.
Hughes emerged from out of nowhere as a lockdown high-leverage arm and one of David Ross’ most trusted options. Thompson was more effective as a long relief “weapon” out of the bullpen and Alzolay can fill a similar role.
Wick had his ups and downs in 2022 and is the longest tenured member of the bullpen. Rodríguez, 26, has had a taste of life in the majors the last couple years and is out of minor league options.
Leiter and Rucker were regulars on the Iowa-to-Chicago shuttle in 2022 and generally pitched well out of the bullpen for the Cubs.
Uelmen, Jeremiah Estrada and Ben Leeper headline a long list of internal bullpen options that will likely pitch for the Cubs at some point in 2023. Codi Heuer and Ethan Roberts could also find their way into the equation late in the year after coming off Tommy John surgery.