The Chicago Cubs were recently informed by Cody Bellinger that he had declined his 2024 player option, officially making him a free agent. The Cubs are now left with holes to fill in centerfield, third base, and their pitching staff.
During 2023, the Cincinnati Reds finished just a game behind the Cubs and Chicago just missed a Wild Card berth by the same amount. Things got nitty gritty towards the end. If Chicago wishes to continue to compete in the National League Central division, they have to be very active in free agency this offseason.
Former New York Yankees centerfielder Harrison Bader was mentioned as a potential fit for the Cubs by MLB.com. Bader is an elite defensive centerfielder with a knack for running the bases.
With rumors of a contract with a $10 million AAV, Bader will be considerably cheaper than Bellinger with matching defensive capabilities. However, Bellinger’s offense will be unmatched in this year’s hitters free agency class.
That being said, Bader posted a .232/.274/.622 slashline and 20 stolen bases in 2023. He was productive enough, but his Gold Glove defense is his calling card.
Only one impending question is his health. Bader has made the 100-game mark just since 2019. Bader landed on the 10-day injured list on three separate occasions this season, each being over a month long.
If Chicago decides to go with Bader over re-signing Bellinger, this allows them to spend money in other positions of need. With Marcus Stroman opting out of his 2024-player option, starting pitching will be at the forefront of the front office’s to-do list.
Closing the gap between the Milwaukee Brewers or pursuing a Wild Card spot should be the number one priority for the Cubs going into free agency and the offseason.