Should Cubs stay out of Hoerner's way at second base?
If the Cubs have too many options at second base, do they have no second baseman at all?
Well, maybe the philosophical approach isn't the best way to analyze the Cubs' standing, but it did get crowded at second base in 2020.
At the start of the season, manager David Ross seemed committed to making rookie Nico Hoerner the full-time second baseman. And he got off to a nice start, but faded to a .222 batting average overall. Hoerner hit .389 in July, .157 in August and .231 in September. He didn't play during the Wild Card Series against Miami.
The Cubs added veteran Jason Kipnis, who was shown the clubhouse door after a long run in Cleveland. He also started hot and faded late, hitting .455 in July, .176 in August and .250 in September. Kipnis homered twice in his first 11 games as a Cub, but went over the fence just once more.
Then David Bote became a viable candidate at second base, since he continued to improve his fielding and ended up leading the team with 29 RBI.
So there are several pertinent questions heading into the offseason. Should this be Hoerner's job full-time? Does Bote deserve a regular spot in the lineup? Do the Cubs bring back Kipnis? Is second base a spot where a new acquisition could fit? The Cubs added Ildemaro Vargas from Minnesota at midseason, though he didn't play much.
First of all with Hoerner, the Cubs obviously have high hopes for their 2018 first-round draft pick. The Cubs' minor-league system doesn't appear to have any position prospects ready for the big leagues, so Hoerner is the hope for the future.
Maybe he'll settle in with regular playing time. Remember: When the Cubs got off to a 13-3 start, it was the bottom of the order with Hoerner, Ian Happ, Jason Heyward and Victor Caratini doing most of the damage.
The Cubs are hoping Hoerner can eventually steal some bases, though he finished 2020 going 3 for 5. Another strength is Hoerner's versatility. He started games at shortstop, third base, center field and left field this season.
Northbrook native Kipnis, 33, enjoyed his return home. But living the dream wasn't quite what he dreamed about growing up, with no fans or relatives in the seats to cheer him on. So Kipnis probably would favor a return to the Cubs and he'll likely be looking for a one-year deal somewhere.
Then the Cubs could settle on a path for Bote, either give him a full-time job at second or third, or trade him away. It's impressive that Bote, 27, was the RBI leader in a part-time role. Besides hitting just .200 on the season, though, Bote had a couple of bad numbers on his 2020 splits -- .122 against left-handed pitchers and .143 at home.
Bote is one of the more perplexing cases on a roster full of inconsistent hitters, but he is under team control through 2025, which helps his case.
Second base figures to be Hoerner's role going forward, but the Cubs also have calls to make on Bote and Kipnis.