Among the Reported First Basemen "On the Cubs' Radar": Trey Mancini, Eric Hosmer, Dominic Smith

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Among the Reported First Basemen “On the Cubs’ Radar”: Trey Mancini, Eric Hosmer, Dominic Smith

Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs have the bones in place now for something we could call a “successful” offseason, and we also still expect that they’ll add a quality reliever or two to improve that group even further. But the one thing the Cubs really haven’t done this offseason, and arguably the thing they needed most, is to fundamentally improve the offense.

To be sure, the Cubs offense in 2022, overall, probably wasn’t as bad as people may think off-hand. The .238/.311/.387 line was good for a 98 wRC+ when adjusting for ballpark and league, meaning that the Cubs’ offense was probably just shy of average (rather than being abysmal). Of course, the offense just lost one of the best offensive catchers in baseball, so that’s not going to help.

In terms of good old fashioned run production, the Cubs’ 657 runs were 22nd in baseball, thanks primarily to (1) a 96 wRC+ with runners in scoring position (24th in baseball), and (2) just 159 homers, which was in the bottom half of the league. That first one might regressive positively on its own (it’s kind of a flukey stat year-to-year), but that second one … well, the Cubs need more homers.

They may have helped that in a couple ways, adding Dansby Swanson and Cody Bellinger, each of whom might be around a league-average bat overall, but who definitely do add home run power. And if Matt Mervis transitions to the big leagues reasonably well this year, he might be a power threat. Still, to really have an above-average offense, you’d need to see another step forward from Ian Happ and Nico Hoerner, a leap from Seiya Suzuki, a better performance from Patrick Wisdom, and/or a big and pleasant surprise somewhere among the young guys.

That is all to say the Cubs really still need to add a bat. It could come at third base relatively easily, but the most obvious spot right now is first base, which can coordinate with Mervis and the DH.

That market, unfortunately, is pretty limited at this point.

Among a trio of reported options from Bruce Levine, from just before Michael Conforto agreed to a deal with the Giants:

Among those on the Cubs’ radar are first baseman Eric Hosmer, outfielder Michael Conforto and outfielder Dominic Smith, sources said. All are lefty bats.

First baseman/outfielder Trey Mancini, a righty bat, has also been on the Cubs’ list, but Hoyer admitted a lefty bat is the preference.

Oof. Hosmer and Smith are pure flyer territory, with each having been good hitters at some point in the past, but having fallen far back in recent years.

Smith, whom you might note as younger (27) with more upside, has been particularly bad the last two years – .233/.298/.345/82 wRC+ and didn’t homer at all in 152 big league PAs this season – though he does come with the ability to play passable corner outfield in a pinch. It feels like a minor league deal, see-how-he-looks-in-Spring-Training-and-at-Iowa-in-April situation, rather than an obvious offensive upgrade. And *ON* a minor league deal, it’s not like I’d complain. It’s just that I think something more certain is needed.

Hosmer, 33, has been a slightly better than league average bat the last two years (.269/.336/.389/103 wRC+), but has hit just 20 homers total. Hosmer might be an upgrade over what the Cubs will do otherwise, so I guess that’s something, though I don’t think he’s going to get anyone too excited.

Then you have Mancini, whom we’ve discussed a great deal already this offseason. He’s probably not going to get back to where he was a few years ago, but I think it’s noteworthy that he was having a pretty great season before the trade to Houston (.268/.347/.404/116 wRC+), and after, his numbers were bad (.176/.258/.364/77 wRC+), but there was a ton of small-sample bad luck baked in. Steamer projects .244/.321/.409/107 wRC+ for Mancini in 2023, and that’d be an upgrade over what the Cubs project to have available for a lot of those 1B/DH at bats.

Mancini also homered 18 times last season if you’re just looking for some additional thump of that variety, and although he’s a righty bat in a lineup that’ll have lots of them, it could also work well with Mervis, a lefty.

That is all to say, of these three, Mancini is the very easy choice for me. I can make the case that the other two, as flyers, might be fine … but as long as Mancini is still on the board, that’s the guy.

Among the other plausible options still out there in free agency, all with questions marks: Brandon Belt (had knee surgery in September and is kind of a question mark), Luke Voit (bat started to fall way off the last two years), Yuli Gurriel (is 38, seemingly fell off a cliff last year), Jesus Aguilar (also fell way off last year), and Miguel Sano (missed almost all of 2022 with knee issues, also the Cubs already have a Patrick-Wisdom-type).

So, again, absent some surprise trade, I think Mancini is the guy the Cubs should really be angling to land.

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.