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2023 Cubs player profiles: Jeimer Candelario

The switch-hitting third baseman is a possible keeper as a bridge between Patrick Wisdom and Matt Shaw. He’s at just the right age where a couple of years at a small raise might be appealing. His bat and glove have good value.

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Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

A former Cub farmhand, 6’1”, 221 lb. Jeimer (pronounced Jay’mer) Candelario is a first/third sacker the Cubs got from the Washington Nationals at the trade deadline, in return for minor league left-hander DJ Herz and infielder Kevin Made, both of whom have potential but plenty of holes in their skillsets.

“Jeimer was awesome. He was everything I expected and more. He did well for us and we’ll miss him but he’s going to go help the Cubs try to get to the playoffs and win a championship, so good for him. We’ll miss him. He gets to move on. That opens up an opportunity for somebody else,” said Washington manager Dave Martinez, himself an ex-Cub.

Candelario had been Cubs property up until 2017, when he was swapped to the Tigers for left-handed reliever Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila. Wilson didn’t quite work out but Avila had good value during his tenure. Minor-league infielder Isaac Paredes (now a semi-regular in Tampa Bay) also went to Detroit in the deal.

The switch-hitter had been blocked by the presence of Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, and this was a good deal for him. He went on to establish himself as a bona fide major-leaguer with the Tigers in 5½ there seasons, swatting 65 home runs during that span, driving in 245 runs, and hitting .243. He had 16 HR and 53 RBI in his half-season as a National, and has gone on to similar numbers as a Cub, while showing a bit of a knack for capitalizing on the big moment and exhibiting no serious defensive deficiencies.

He’ll be 30 November 24th, and there’s no reason why the Cubs shouldn’t try to re-sign him at a modest increase from his $5 million contract — a couple of years at something like $6.25 million per year might be suitable, while Chicago waits for phenom Matt Shaw to come up and fill his shoes.

I’d be in favor of that. So would be Patrick Mooney {$}. It’d probably mean Patrick Wisdom moves on, but that isn’t as much of an issue as one might think. Wisdom doesn’t play much these days, and the Cubs aren’t as dependent on his big power as they have big bats up and down the lineup. The Cubs will probably re-sign Nick Madrigal as the primary infield backup — though a bit of this speculation is predicated on the Cubs signing or not signing Cody Bellinger. If Bellinger signs, he’ll log another year in center, which gives Candelario some time at first while Madrigal plays third and phenom Pete Crow-Armstrong plays a full season at Triple A. Ian Happ and Seiya Suzuki are established at their positions and are signed long-term, which leaves center as the only position available, given Bellinger’s excellence at first. Bellinger will be 29 by mid-season, and that position switch might well lengthen his span of usefulness by a few years.

We’ll see — a lot of Cub decisions hinge upon how much and how many years Bellinger signs for, and with whom. It might be a $200 million decision.

Anyway this article is about Jeimer Candelario, and he’s a good package. I’d keep him rather than spring for Matt Chapman, given the presence of Shaw, who is tearing up the minor league teams he advances to, with power, average, and a good eye at the plate plus his above-average defense.

The Cubs put a premium on ‘character’ players, people who have cool heads and life experience, and Candelario (as is Shaw) is one of those. He also acts as a mentor of sorts to still-finding-his-position Christopher Morel, and that has value also, as Morel has a world of talent waiting to be harnessed. If Morel could play third effectively, we wouldn’t be having this ‘conversation’, but he hasn’t shown any evidence of that so far.

If the Cubs end up with Chapman and no Bellinger, then one of them slides across to first. There really aren’t any other third basemen worth talking about on the marker coming up. It’s the same math as with Bellinger — the No. 2 free agent center fielder is likely to be Harrison Bader. I’d like him as a fourth, but not a CF starter. There’s really no FA outfield help at all, which isn’t an issue for the Cubs, who have a glut.

And that leads us to the trade market, which is absolutely unknown and completely unquantifiable at this point. And we’ll end this, for now, here, and revisit in the offseason and next year. Thanks for reading.


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