MESA, Ariz. — Teammates were still waiting for the arrival of Gold Glove shortstop Andrelton Simmons to Cubs camp as first official workouts began Monday.
But at least they and most of their fans can stop waiting for Carlos Correa to show up, unless team president Jed Hoyer was blowing smoke up the media’s devices when he spoke Monday.
As rumors continued into the week involving the eventual destination of top free agent Correa — some still linking him to the Cubs — Hoyer was asked if the pitching-needy Cubs had already resolved the extent of their shortstop needs.
“Yeah, I think we’re really happy with our middle infield right now,” Hoyer said. “We brought in Simmons. He’s an elite shortstop. With our pitching staff that was something that was critically important.
“We have a lot of confidence in Nico [Hoerner] playing shortstop,” he added. “He’s also an elite defensive second baseman. And we couldn’t have been more excited to trade for [Nick] Madrigal [last summer]. And I think with Nick and with Nico having some injuries last year, we’re definitely aware that 162 is probably not going to happen.
“We have three middle infielders we have a ton of faith in, and I think almost like on the pitching side, we’ll continue to add depth and give Rossy options of moving those guys around.”
Depth is not a word typically associated with free agent, All-Star shortstops seeking $300 million-plus contracts.
So that might be the final word on the prospects of Correa landing with the Cubs — a team Hoyer cautioned repeatedly in the early fall would seek to spend its free agent budget “intelligently” this winter. It was a mantra he seemed to underscore with the three-year, $73 million signing of starter Marcus Stroman — whose free agent peers Kevin Gausman and Robbie Ray each got a five-year deal in excess of $100 million.
And while Hoyer wouldn’t commit to Simmons as his everyday shortstop until having those playing-time conversations with all of the affected players, the intent of the $4 million signing of the four-time Gold Glove shortstop by a team with a contact-pitching rotation was clear.
“Listen, he’s an elite defensive shortstop who I think can really help us,” Hoyer said. “We also really believe in Nico. Let us sit down and iron that out.”
Beyond that, the already pitching-needy Cubs developed an even more urgent need on that side of the roster after injuries in recent months to key reliever Codi Heuer (Tommy John surgery) and starter Adbert Alzolay (shoulder tightness), both of whom are expected to miss extended time.
Even on the position-player side, the Cubs are trying to address outfield needs, including being linked to Japanese free agent Seiya Suzuki.
“Not that we’re not comfortable with the players we have, but I think we’re going to continue to look to add,” Hoyer said.
Just not necessarily from the $300 million shortstop shelf.