The Chicago Cubs have shown interest in trading for another Cleveland Guardians player, but this time, it was first basemen Josh Naylor. According to Guardians beat writer Paul Hoynes of cleveland.com, the Cubs expressed their interest in Naylor at the end of the Winter Meetings. Chicago was not alone, though. They would have to compete with the Seattle Mariners and Pittsburgh Pirates if a deal were to be made.
Chicago was in on Shohei Ohtani until the end, but he just signed a record-breaking contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Besides the Ohtani Sweepstakes, the Cubs made no noise at the Winter Meetings. However, the Cubs were linked to the Guardians about a possible trade for their Ace, Shane Bieber. The Guardians have also been open about their willingness to trade Emmanuel Clase. With the Guardians being available to those trades, it would not be out of the realm of possibilities for the Cubs to acquire Naylor.
Josh Naylor’s breakout season in 2023
In his second full season in the big leagues, Naylor showed everybody he was there to stay. Naylor started his career with the San Diego Padres in 2019 but did not stick in the MLB. It was not until 2022 that Naylor would play his first season of more than 95 games, and he finished with 122 games played. In those games, Naylor hit .256 with 20 home runs and 79 RBI. The former first-round pick followed that up with a better 2023 season. Last season, Naylor hit .308 with 17 home runs, 97 RBI, and a .842 OPS over 121 games.
Naylor’s advanced metrics do not jump off the page at you, but there are a few that make him desirable to other teams. According to Baseball Savant, Naylor was in the 94th percentile in strikeout and 79th percentile in whiff percentage. Naylor is not one to swing and miss; he almost never strikes out. He is easily a bat the Cubs would stick in the middle of their order to drive in runs and put the ball in play.
Naylor is not just a hitter, though. He is a solid defender at first base. In 2023, Naylor posted an OAA (outs above average) of five, which is the best of his career. That is also in the 88th percentile in the MLB. He is a solid defender at first base, but that is where he would stay. This is not a bad thing, but Naylor did once play outfield. That seems to be behind him, as his future is definitely at first base.
Is Naylor a good fit for the Cubs?
The short answer is yes. The Cubs have a need for a first baseman, especially one that can hit. Last year, the Cubs used Patrick Wisdom, Cody Bellinger, and Matt Mervis. They did not have a set starter at first base, and with Bellinger most likely heading elsewhere in free agency, the Cubs desperately need someone to staff the position full-time.
Patrick Wisdom is currently the only player listed under first base on the depth chart for the Cubs. However, Wisdom posted a -8 OAA, 36.8 strikeout percentage, and 33.8 whiff percentage. Those numbers are towards the worst in the MLB and will deter the Cubs from wanting him to be the first baseman in 2024. Naylor offers an upgrade in all of those areas. He does exhibit a little less power, but he makes up for that in his ability to drive in runs and hit for contact.
Naylor would slide right into the middle of the order for the Cubs. He does not provide the big power bat they were hoping for, but his ability to hit for contact and drive in runs would make up for that. Chicago seems to be exploring multiple options at first base, but Naylor would be an awesome fit for the team.
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