David Ross is never going to be confused with his predecessor at the helm for the Cubs, but he and Joe Maddon share the desire to have a flexible roster made up of somewhat interchangeable pieces. That isn’t to say all the players have similar skills, of course, only that having multiple people who can play multiple positions is key. Which brings us to shortstop.
The Cubs’ first signing out of the lockout was Andrelton Simmons, a veteran shortstop who has played at least 131 games in seven of the last eight non-COVID seasons. His offense has been below average in seven of the last nine seasons, however, and his once-elite defense is no longer enough to make up for his weak bat. In fact, he posted a negative UZR last season for the first time in his career.
Past role aside, Simmons is a backup at this point and that’s exactly what a $4 million price tag indicates the Cubs signed him to be. But a backup to whom? Jed Hoyer said in November that the Cubs would spend money in pursuit of a contender, and Carlos Correa checks several boxes for them.
“Even with Simmons in the fold, Correa still makes sense as there are those within the organization who see him as a perfect fit,” Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney wrote for The Athletic. “Nico Hoerner could then shift to center or a super-utility role and the Cubs would have the type of depth and flexibility that Ross desires. It’s hard to deny that the Cubs have a need — beyond the glove, they could certainly use his bat — and money to spend.”
Even if Correa isn’t in Cubbie Blue this spring, Hoyer and new GM Carter Hawkins have the wherewithal to add proven players that can complement a rising group of prospects led by Brennen Davis. The great failure of a would-be dynasty that was summarily dismantled at last year’s trade deadline is that the Cubs neither continued the development of their young stars post-promotion nor surrounded them with the proper role players.
Well, okay, the inability to develop so much as a single impact pitcher over the course of a decade didn’t help. The Cubs paid big money for pitching and drafted hitters, hoping the situation would flip when those hitters were due for big raises. Nope. Not only were there no starters coming up from the farm, but the lineup simply wasn’t dynamic or consistent enough to carry the team.
Hoyer is clearly trying to operate from a different playbook this time around, but it’s neither wise nor expedient to simply wait on prospects to mature. The Cubs need a superstar or two who can anchor the roster, allowing them to be more targeted with other acquisitions and promotions. Will we see the start of that this season?