It may be both wishful thinking and thinking way too far ahead, but in times like these it’s the most fun to do. The upcoming offseason is going to be very interesting for the Chicago Cubs because they are in a spot where the bulk of the prospects on the farm are not quite ready to make the big leagues. But, the Cubs will have a lot of salary to play with in 2022. That poses a question. What does the front office do with all of that money? They could more or less forego this offseason as far as big spending and delay it until the next offseason. The Cubs could also just decide to go for the top free agents, of which there are many.
In my opinion, it would be for the best to delay any big spending for three or more years until after the 2022 season. I think that because most of the Cubs prospects are at the least one full season away from the big leagues, or at least performing to expectations in the MLB. Because of that it would be best to not get locked into any questionable multi-year contracts before the team is ready to be filled out with the Cubs’ prospects.
Two Potential Platoon Options
Assuming there won’t be any big offseason signings for the Cubs, there are potential cheap options within the Cubs organization already. The first one that I see is for left field and center field with Rafael Ortega, Michael Hermosillo, and Ian Happ.
In 48 at-bats with Triple-A Iowa, Hermosillo hit .313 with an OPS of 1.015 against LHP, which is on par with his minor league career. He can be paired with both Rafael Ortega and Ian Happ, who perform much better against RHP, as Ortega is hitting .340 in 162 at-bats (.266 in 515 career at-bats vs. RHP). Ian Happ is a switch-hitter, but it is no secret that he is a different player as a left-handed hitter. From the left side, Happ is hitting .240 with a slugging% of .484 in 1077 career at-bats.
Each of Happ, Hermosillo, and Ortega can also play LF and CF, and Ortega has also played a little bit in RF. Happ would be the most expensive of the three, and he is only making $4.4 million in 2021. Arbitration is likely to bring that down in 2022 if he and the Cubs decide to take that route.
The second platoon option might be a little more out there, considering one of the players I am about to mention just made his major league debut on Sunday, August 29. Although this might be a little optimistic on my end, it is not crazy to think that this could be successful in 2022. I would platoon Frank Schwindel with new Cub Alfonso Rivas at first base.
Schwindel has been outstanding overall in his short time as a Cub, hitting .310 with an OPS of .922 in 128 at-bats. If you take a deeper look at his splits, he is hitting a scorching .361 with four of his six homers against LHP. His overall major league sample is still pretty small, but in his big league career he is hitting .289 against LHP. Going back to 2018, with the Kansas City Royals’ Triple-A affiliate, Schwindel hit .353 in 119 at-bats vs. LHP.
Combine Schwindel with the left-handed hitting Alfonso Rivas, who just had two hits in his major league debut, and you have an intriguing platoon at first base. Rivas is the youngest of all the players mentioned in this article at only 24 years old. He was acquired from the Oakland A’s before the 2020 season for Tony Kemp, and has performed extremely well with the Iowa Cubs since. He is an on-base machine, with a .393 OBP in 241 minor league games. He’s also hitting .298 in 151 at-bats in 2021 with the Iowa Cubs. Much like the three-man outfield platoon, Schwindel and Rivas would be extremely cheap options that are already within the organization.
If the Cubs are looking to delay big free agent spending until after the 2022 season, they already have multiple platoon options to fill important spots in the lineup that can help save money before going after all of the top free agents for the 2023 season. Even if the Cubs do go out and sign a few multi-year deals, this would be the way to save money so that they can afford and attract free agents going forward.
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