Will Cubs start making moves that matter at winter meetings?

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • The winter meetings get started in San Diego Sunday, a perfect time for the Cubs to address their many roster needs. The Cubs are still rumored to be interested in a strong group of free-agent shortstops, including Carlos Correa, above.

    The winter meetings get started in San Diego Sunday, a perfect time for the Cubs to address their many roster needs. The Cubs are still rumored to be interested in a strong group of free-agent shortstops, including Carlos Correa, above. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 12/3/2022 3:20 PM

Two weeks ago, the Cubs claimed infielder Rylan Bannon off waivers from the Braves.

On Friday, the Astros claimed Bannon off waivers from the Cubs.

 

Suffice to say, it's been a nondescript off-season on the North Side so far.

Maybe that will change this week at the winter meetings in San Diego.

With so many holes to fill -- and so much potential money to spend -- following a 74-88 season, it's time for the Cubs to start making moves that matter.

Let's start with shortstop.

There are four free-agent stars available, Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, Trea Turner and Dansby Swanson.

The Cubs have been linked to all of them, and they also have one of their best returning players at the position.

That would be Nico Hoerner, who hit .281/.327/.410 with 10 home runs and 55 RBI over 135 games this season.

Fortunately for the Cubs, Hoerner is a versatile defender and he can also play second base.

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Hoerner is a team-first guy as well, and he'd gladly play second if the Cubs decide to spend big for Correa, Bogaerts, Turner or Swanson.

"We have total confidence in Nico's ability to play shortstop," said Jed Hoyer, the Cubs' president of baseball operations. "The way the game is trending, athleticism in the middle infield will make a big difference. (Hoerner) wants to talk about the Cubs. He wants to talk about winning. He wants to talk about the culture. As long as you're talking about winning and what can make us great, Nico's totally on board."

With Willson Contreras a free agent after rejecting the Cubs' $19.65 million qualifying offer, Hoyer is looking to add a new catcher.

One rumor has Contreras signing with the World Series champion Astros and the Cubs signing free agent Christian Vazquez, who was traded from Boston to Houston on Aug. 1.

In 119 combined games with the Red Sox and Astros, the 32-year-old Vazquez hit .274/.315/.399 with 9 homers and 52 RBI.

In the outfield, the Cubs are currently set on the corners with Ian Happ in left and Seiya Suzuki in right.

There's a big hole in center field, where Cody Bellinger is available after being non-tendered by the Dodgers.

The National League's MVP in 2019, Bellinger has dropped way off the past three years and he slashed .210/.265/.389 with 19 homers and 68 RBI this season.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Matt Mervis is making a strong push to play first base for the Cubs in 2023 after hitting 36 homers and driving in 119 runs over three minor-league levels this year.

Hoyer said he's also "exploring alternatives," likely a more proven commodity that can alternate between first base and designated hitter.

Like most MLB teams, the Cubs can use another starting pitcher or two.

After signing Suzuki in March, the Cubs have been linked to another Japanese star -- right-hander Koudai Senga.

In 23 starts for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks this season, the 29-year-old Senga was 11-6 with a 1.89 ERA.

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