State of the Cubs: Where roster stands at third base entering crucial offseason
The 2022 season is over and the Cubs are facing one of the most important offseasons in recent memory. Before the stove starts heating up, we examine where the Cubs depth chart stands at each position and where the holes might be for Jed Hoyer’s front office to fill.
Next up: Third Base
1. Patrick Wisdom
2. Zach McKinstry
3. Christopher Morel
4. David Bote
5. P.J. Higgins
6. Jared Young
Wisdom will be a part of the Cubs in some capacity in 2023 but it’s unknown exactly what role he will fill. He is a versatile player who can move around the diamond with third base as his home but he can also play first base, corner outfield and can fill in at DH.
The 31-year-old is under team control for four more seasons and took strides in 2022 — walking more and striking out less while still displaying power (a team-leading 25 homers). However, he took a bit of step back defensively (doubling his error total from 7 in 2021 to 14 in 2022) and was worth 0.9 WAR compared to a 2.2 WAR figure in 2021.
He dealt with a finger injury down the stretch that limited him on the field and affected his play over the final few weeks (.132 AVG, .526 OPS after suffering the injury on Aug. 20).
The Cubs lineup as currently constructed is in need of power and Wisdom is the type of player who can change the game with one swing of the bat.
“We have to be a little quicker strike offense than we were,” Hoyer said. “I liked the fact that we’re making more contact. I did think there was times in the year we grinded our at-bats, but we just lacked the ability to pull away in different games. And that’s something we have to get better about.
“… One-run games are generally a 50/50 proposition, sometimes a little better if you have a great bullpen. But great teams blow people out. And as we think about where we want to be eventually, that is a big focus that you’ve got to be able to score runs in bunches. And we were not able to do that this year.”
The Cubs could also use more left-handed bats and McKinstry provides that. It’s possible he and Wisdom form some sort of platoon at third base in 2023 with McKinstry playing against a lot of righties and Wisdom playing against lefties and some favorable matchups against right-handers.
McKinstry came over from the Dodgers at the trade deadline and is under team control for 5 more seasons. He has solid minor league numbers (.278/.366/.434 slash line, including a .335 AVG in Triple-A in 2022) but hasn’t yet been able to carry that success over the majors. He turns 28 in April is also a versatile player that can spot up anywhere on the diamond with some pop, solid defense and on-base skills.
Like McKinstry and Wisdom, Morel can play multiple positions and will see time at other spots besides third base. The 23-year-old flashed his potential in 2022 and could emerge as a franchise cornerstone, but his long-term position is unknown.
Bote turns 30 in April and had an up-and-down campaign where he missed several months at the start of 2022 while recovering from shoulder surgery. He was also on the outside of the team’s roster crunch when McKinstry joined the team in August and optioned to the minors for a month before being recalled when rosters expanded in September.
When he was in the lineup, Bote performed pretty well, sporting a 109 OPS+ (9% above league average) and rating well defensively to put up a 0.9 WAR in 41 games. He is signed through the next two seasons and is owed north of $4 million in 2023 and $5 million in 2024.
Higgins and Young can both play third base but are probably better suited at other positions or as minor league depth.
Third base is an area where the Cubs could upgrade if an opportunity presents itself, shifting Wisdom into a utility role. But this is also not a major hole on the roster.
Unless Nolan Arenado opts out of his deal with the Cardinals, there is no gamechanger at the third base position in free agency.
But as with every position on the infield, if the Cubs sign one of the top shortstop in free agency (Trea Turner, Dansby Swanson, Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts), there will be a trickledown effect around the diamond. Hoerner played some third base earlier in his career or it’s possible a new addition would switch off shortstop and spend time at third base.
In the bigger picture, the Cubs don’t really have a top prospect at third base waiting in the wings. Chase Strumpf and Jake Slaughter could be options in the farm system, but neither has played above the Double-A level.
The most likely option is the Cubs head into 2023 with third base as a position to play the matchups with Wisdom likely seeing the majority of time there while McKinstry and Morel also make some starts at the hot corner.