With Dansby Swanson in the fold, the Chicago Cubs need to turn their attention to adding at least one more solid bat. The chance that the Cubs could complete the offseason with an on-paper well-above-average offense has, realistically, long passed. But that doesn’t mean you don’t still try to improve where you can, or create opportunities for offensive upside.
To that end, Bruce Levine mentioned two different names in two different media spots, neither of whom is new, but each of whom came with a certain bit of forcefulness.
The first was Trey Mancini, whom Levine and others have mentioned in connection with the Cubs. On his Saturday morning radio show on 670 The Score, Levine said the Cubs would be adding another bat like Mancini, which was the only name he mentioned at the time. It was very matter-of-fact, as though we could safely assume Mancini was happening. That’s not me – or Levine – saying it *IS* happening, mind you. I’m just saying that was how the mention came off. It was noticeable.
We know Mancini is very much on the Cubs’ radar, and we know the Cubs would like to have a steady (probably preferably right-handed) veteran first base option available to open the season, allowing for Matt Mervis to emerge when ready, and in the best match-ups for him. For me, Mancini falls in that “OK, sure, that’s fine” category of signing. He’ll probably offer a slightly above-average bat, with some previous success at a much higher level so there’s probably some upside, and he is regarded as a good clubhouse guy.
The other mention from Levine, though, was even more forceful, and it was his suggestion on Marquee that the Cubs’ lineup will eventually feature a name like Michael Conforto’s:
Conforto, 29, is coming off a season lost to shoulder surgery, and is looking for a short-term deal to reposition himself for free agency. The Cubs are certainly the kind of team that could offer him a deal like that, as they, too, are looking now for short-term options for offensive upside.
As we’ve discussed, Conforto might at first seem an odd fit for a team with two sure-fire corner outfielders locked in, but with the ability to move Conforto around the outfield, to move Cody Bellinger sometimes to first, to rotate guys through the DH spot, you can make it work.
That’s to say nothing of having depth in the event of injury. And given the injuries/setbacks involving Brennen Davis and Alexander Canario, ready-made outfield depth is a reasonable concern at this moment, too. Christopher Morel can play in the outfield, though he may wind up starting a lot at third. Nelson Velazquez had the look of a possible good complementary outfielder, but I don’t think that’s for sure. Darius Hill might be a capable 4th outfielder, but that’s also not sure. Ben DiLuzio might make the Cubs as a speedy and defense type, but may not bring much of a bat. So on, and so on.
Could and would the Cubs add both Mancini and Conforto? I mean, they have the available dollars, and I can make the roster math/starts work. I think there is also still a need for another starting option in the rotation, at least ideally. The Cubs clearly want to add another catcher, too. There may be a desire to reserve some money for a late-offseason opportunistic signing in the bullpen, too. The Cubs have about $30 million, give or take, to work with under the first tier of the luxury tax, if that’s where they are placing their limit.
Funny thing? If the Cubs added Conforto and Mancini, they would then have the upside potential of having an above-average overall bat at every single starting spot except catcher. Are all of those spots going to actually go toward that upside in the same season? Of course not. But you’d like to at least have as few totally dead spots in the lineup as possible. Conforto and Mancini could help to that end.