Nail Me To A Cross But I’m Moving Nico Hoerner To 2nd Base
I don't want to make a big deal out of this but the same time I need to circle back and make a big deal out of my biggest take going into next year. BY FAR the most frequently asked question is along the lines of what the Cubs do to get back in contention. What is Jed thinking. Where does the improvement come from?
In my mind, you need to find 5500 plate appearances. Each position puts up about 600-650 and you need at least a dozen guys to get there over an entire season. In that regard, take immense comfort that the Cubs have about 1800 of those PA's locked up from next year in Ian Happ, Seiya Suzuki and Nico Hoerner.
Next step is adding high impact talent to the roster. A quick glance at the offseason's unrestricted free agent class says there's 4 shortstops and an outfielder at the top of the market. There's a handful of guys in the next wave, but we're talking bonafide high impact talent: Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, Dansby Swanson and Aaron Judge. And even writing that out, I think there's a gap between Swanson and the rest.
So if you're the Cubs and want to go down the path of adding one of these guys, the question is Where Do They Fit? Judge is such a preposterous consideration I won't entertain it past mentioning his name.
But the shortstops? Carlos Correa and Trea Turner are not moving off position. Would Xander? Maybe the most likely of the 3, but he's hitting free agency as a shortstop and wants to get paid like a SS. Come play 3rd for the Cubs would probably lose in free agency. Just a hunch, but the bigger picture is that the Cubs' clearest option forward with unrestricted free agents is at SS.
The logic follows pretty simply then. Nico Hoerner can easily move to the other side of 2nd base. You now have a top-5 shortstop and a top-3 2nd baseman in the NL. You've drastically improved the roster by adding some of the best 650 plate appearances available.
I'm not writing off a position change for a free agent if the Cubs are able to land it. And people clamoring for Nico's defense are acting like he's not going to play every day up the middle? For additional consideration - defensive metrics are strongly influenced by the number and quality of chances available to a fielder in the first place. That's a different blog but if that resonates, think deeply on it.
For everyone else, take a deep breath. I'm not saying Nico Hoerner is anything other than an All Star caliber 2nd baseman, and a productive every day shortstop. But that's not the question at hand. The question is what the Cubs can do to get better, which just so happens to bring me to the middle infield. And that's solely & exclusively due to the unrestricted free agent market. Put every constraint in the same box and this is where my brain takes me. Why not target one of the best middle infields in baseball? Sure seems like a good place to start based on everything we know.
I don't know if that makes me a bad guy to the extent some Cubs' fans have made it seem. Quite honestly I just want to see a team that can win 90+ games and compete against the best. Right now that means making some changes to the roster that's currently 20 games back of 1st place as we head into September.
It remains to be seen what changes are available for a number of reasons. There's options and injuries and trades and a bunch of shit that will ultimately set the table for what players the Cubs can add. So by no means is this the only path forward. But it's definitely a path forward and one that makes a lot of sense to me based on everything I've learned about this game. If that makes me a moron then so be it. But chances are you don't know shit either and in that spirit, we're in the same boat. Just a couple guys trying to make sense of something that means so much yet yields so little happiness.
On the bright side it gives me something to do. And that's nice.
For more in-depth baseball conversation that is sure to piss you off, check out this week's Starting 9 here