First player Cubs should sign once the lockout ends

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The first move the Chicago Cubs should make after the lockout ends is to find their answer at shortstop.

The Chicago Cubs have put the 2016 season in the rearview and are now looking to compete soon but maybe not quite yet in 2022. The team made a string of moves before the lockout began, notably picking up Wade Miley off of waivers, signing Marcus Stroman to a major deal, and taking a chance on New York Yankees outcast Clint Frazier.

Nothing they have done so far seems to guarantee they will be “all in” for the coming season. At the same time, they’re making winning moves to suggest they’re ready to at least put a competitive team on the field.

There are several needs for the Cubs. One they cannot ignore is the need at shortstop. The team is pretty weak up the middle and adding one of the remaining free agents at the position would surely push them a little closer to winning it all. As big as those dreams of signing Carlos Correa may be, the first move the Cubs should make after the lockout ends is to pivot to a deal with Jonathan Villar.

Cubs: Signing Jonathan Villar to play shortstop is a step in the right direction

Why Villar instead of one of the two other big names out there like Correa or even Trevor Story? The Cubs need far more than one superstar player on their infield to be competitive. Villar re-established a ton of value with the New York Mets in 2021, going from a part-time player to an everyday position player with the ability to take on multiple positions.

Villar’s best days may be behind him. That doesn’t mean he’s wrong for the Cubs. This year will be his age 31 campaign which isn’t bad for free agency.

Last season’s .249/.322/.416 slash line won’t impress too many Cubs fans but let’s consider the 18 doubles, 18 home runs, and 42 RBI he had when all he was expected to do was play a small role yet ended up with 142 games and over 500 plate appearances. The Mets originally signed Villar as a fifth infielder. Due to injuries and performance, he won a lot of innings at third base.

The Cubs could benefit from having his versatility on the infield. Still a solid enough defender at shortstop, he provides them with something greater.

If the Cubs went out and blew a lot of money on Correa, that’s probably it for the offseason. They’re committed to him for a long time, too. They could easily end up back to where they were in the middle of 2021 but with an albatross contract on a losing team.

Villar would allow the Cubs to make other necessary moves to the roster. Bolstering the bullpen, adding more offense, and maybe even picking up a starting pitcher should be on their agenda.

The Cubs are not one move away from recapturing first place. They need a couple of them. A deal with Villar, while not a super headline grabber, could potentially be the start of some wise and less flashy moves that still help the team in the standings.

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