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Dansby Swanson Signing: With a bright new shortstop, Cubs should get very aggressive in NL Central win

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The Cubs reportedly signed shortstop Dansby Swanson for a seven-year, $177 million deal🇧🇷 Given that Swanson was the last remaining free agent that we could consider a “big” name, he will end up being the biggest standout this offseason. Still, a bevy of moves must follow, otherwise it’s an off-season half-measure and we all know half-measures just aren’t productive for anyone.

Here’s why the Cubs should stay aggressive:

  • They were 74-88 last season, aided by a 39-31 record after the All-Star break. Part of that was beating bad teams, but they also went 9-0 against the Mets and Phillies.
  • Most productive offensive player, Willson Contreras, signed with the Cardinals.
  • The Cardinals are still easily the best team in the NL Central and the Brewers haven’t dropped anything, but the division lacks a powerhouse. That is, it’s a weak enough division that jumping into the mid-80s in expected wins is likely to make a team a contender.
  • The team is now not good enough to compete. Is not.
  • The farming system has some good enough prospects, but it lacks stellar power.
  • There’s almost no money on the books going forward. It was actually just $19 million from Seiya Suzuki in 2025 and 2026 and now we can add in Swanson’s deal, but that’s a dumb move for the Cubs. They basically print money when they can be watched.

The Cubs can and should be very aggressive in adding to their big league roster the rest of the offseason. Even without superstars, there are plenty of players out there who can help in the short term.

They could add shots – you’ll never have enough – but it’s reasonable to believe they have good weapons at home, especially with what looks like a great mid-range defense. Between Swanson, Nico Hoerner, Ian Happ and Suzuki, there are offensive players that can make a good team. Cody Bellinger is a lottery ticket. Christopher Morel can come in handy, even if he’s better suited as a backup utility. Patrick Wisdom’s power can work in spurts. It is possible that Matt Mervis will enjoy his minor league breakout season.

Even with all that, though, it’s hard to squint to call this an offense that might be above average.

Left on the free agent market are outfielders Michael Brantley and Michael Conforto. The Cubs look like they have a full outfield with Happ, Bellinger and Suzuki, but it’s possible they could add one of those two and rotate them for outfield points by giving one of their regulars a day off, using them as DH or even even playing Bellinger initially.

Third base currently looks like a combination of Morel and Wisdom, which is where free agents Evan Longoria or Justin Turner could come in as an upgrade. The Brandon Drury utility is still available and can handle the first or third.

Let’s say, just to see how it would play out, that the Cubs now sign Brantley and Turner. Here’s what the schedule might look like:

1. Nico Hoerner, 2B
2. Dansby Swanson, SS
3. Michael Brantley, DH
4. Justin Turner, 3B
5. Seiya Suzuki, RF
6. Ian Happ, LF
7. Cody Bellinger, CF
8. Matt Mervis/Patrick Wisdom, 1B
9. Yan Gomes, C

Obviously, we could flip things around (especially since the left-handed Bellinger and the left-handed Mervis probably wouldn’t crash side-by-side), but we’re just trying to get a rough sketch. That offense could be a contender even if it lacks star power in the middle – assuming Bellinger doesn’t magically return to MVP form, an unlikely scenario that would certainly be welcome on the North Side.

Apart from Brantley and Turner, though, you’re looking at Morel’s daily hits and then extra playing time for the likes of Alfonso Rivas and Zach McKinstry.

Quite simply, the Cubs still need at least two more good hitters to mount a productive offense. The free agency big names are gone, but there are useful players available. As an added bonus, the overwhelming majority of players the Cubs would be considering right now would be on short-term deals. That is, they can help the club fight in 2023 and, if that doesn’t work out, they can be traded to help strengthen the agricultural system in the future.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that a trade could happen in the offseason to help improve the team in the short term or even the long term. Rafael Devers’ contract extension is considered the Red Sox’s top priority, but they lost Xander Bogaerts and a few years ago traded Mookie Betts. If Devers somehow becomes available, he’ll fit right in with this team. The Diamondbacks are said to be willing to part ways with a left-handed outfielder and perhaps there will be an adjustment. It’s possible the Blue Jays trade one of their catchers; Danny Jansen could work. Will the Phillies trade Rhys Hoskins? Come down.

Regardless of where the help comes from, the Cubs need more to compete in 2023 and that should be the plan. The front office has insisted it won’t be a drawn-out rebuild, and if that’s the case, they need to fight in 2023. Swanson’s signing shouldn’t put an end to off-season business for president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer. He should signal that there is a lot more help on the way and that help needs to carry some wood.