What's next for Cubs after Swanson, other key signings


The Cubs have had an active offseason headlined by the addition of All-Star shortstop Dansby Swanson.

And whether it looks like they’re done adding, they say they’re not — and they shouldn't be.

“We still have pieces of our team that are not complete,” team president Jed Hoyer said last week, after Swanson’s introductory press conference. 

Hoyer and Co. have since finalized their deal to bring back starter Drew Smyly and on Thursday landed catcher Tucker Barnhart.

But they still need to add a few pieces as they look to compete in 2023, namely a bat for the corner infield — preferably a lefty — and another veteran arm for their bullpen.

RELATED: Smyly return, Taillon addition boost Cubs' pitching depth

First base prospect Matt Mervis is in the Cubs’ plans next season, but adding someone to complement him would allow them to ease him into the big leagues. He had a breakout 2022 minor-league campaign, starting in Single-A and finishing in Triple-A.

If the Cubs add a third baseman, they could slide Patrick Wisdom to first to pair with Mervis. The Mets may have a surplus potentially available via trade if they finalize their deal with Carlos Correa.

Perhaps more likely is the Cubs landing a first baseman. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman recently linked them to Trey Mancini.

Mancini hits from the right side, and the Cubs are heavy on right-handed bats. But he has a good reputation in the clubhouse, is a power hitter and has versatility to play outfield.

Other first basemen on the open market include Eric Hosmer, whom the Red Sox released this week, and longtime Giant and two-time champ Brandon Belt. Both are left-handed hitters.

First basemen/outfielders Ryan O’Hearn and Dominic Smith are two potential fliers. The Royals designated O’Hearn for assignment Wednesday, and Smith — whom the Cubs have been linked to in past trade talks — is a free agent.

If you’re looking specifically at lefty bats, the Giants DFA’d former Cub Tommy La Stella on Wednesday. If he’s healthy enough to play a bench role, La Stella — who had Achilles surgery on both legs last offseason — could be valuable as lefty off the bench who can play a few positions.

Looking at the bullpen, the Cubs have promising young arms but also traded three veterans at the deadline last season.

The addition of Brad Boxberger gives David Ross a steady presence for the later innings. Adding another would make sense, particularly from the left side.

Brandon Hughes and recent waiver addition Anthony Kay are the only lefty relievers currently on the 40-man roster. But Hughes emerged as one of Ross’ go-to relievers to finish games last season.

For what it’s worth, former Cub Andrew Chafin is available, as is three-time All-Star Brad Hand, who had a good 2022 with the Phillies.

To their credit, the Cubs have already had a big offseason, committing $290.8 million to six key free agents that bolstered their starting rotation and shored up their defense up the middle.

  • SS Dansby Swanson: seven years, $177 million
  • SP Jameson Taillon: four years, $68 million
  • SP Drew Smyly: two years, $19 million
  • CF Cody Bellinger: one year, $17.5 million (2024 mutual option)
  • C Tucker Barnhart: one year, $6.5 million (2024 player option)*
  • RP Brad Boxberger: one year, $2.8 million *reported/pending physical

*reported/pending physical

So far, this is how their potential starting defensive lineup stacks up:

  • Catcher: Yan Gomes/Barnhart
  • First base: Mervis/Wisdom
  • Second base: Nico Hoerner
  • Third base: Wisdom
  • Shortstop: Swanson
  • Left field: Ian Happ
  • Center field: Bellinger
  • Right field: Seiya Suzuki

Now imagine what it would look like if they plugged in a bat like Mancini.

“I certainly feel like we've gotten better as a team,” Hoyer said last week. “That's the most important focus. We’ve gotten better in a number of areas on this team.

“There's continued areas for improvement. We’re not a finished product, but I certainly feel like we're definitely better than when we started this offseason.”

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