One free agent deal sure to guarantee a Morel trade, and it's not Bellinger

One possible Cubs signing could position the Cubs to trade young star Christopher Morel.

Oct 1, 2023; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Chicago Cubs shortstop Christopher Morel (5) jokes with
Oct 1, 2023; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Chicago Cubs shortstop Christopher Morel (5) jokes with / Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

One of the key questions of the Chicago Cubs future is what they'll opt to do with Christopher Morel, who is entering his third year.

Morel is an attractive trade piece who has already been floated as the primary consideration to be hypothetically dealt to the San Diego Padres if the Cubs could pull off a Juan Soto deal. He's young enough that he has the upside of a prospect, but has shown enough at the plate that teams can be confident about his tangible offensive abilities. The young phenom punched in 70 runs last season.

Yet, questions linger about him defensively, where he has been more nomadic. He has played 649 innings in the outfield, 390 at second base, 180 at third base, and 101 at shortstop. We learned last week that the team plans to put him at first base after most of those positions have resulted in relatively mid-level results at best.

If that's true, one signing the team is targeting could make the idea of him as a trade piece even more of a reality...

Rhys Hoskins a solid trade target for Cubs, which would make a Christopher Morel trade even more real

One key free agent available this offseason is Rhys Hoskins. Hoskins didn't play in 2023, recovering from an injury, but appears ready to return for spring training next season. With the Phillies moving Bryce Harper to first base full-time, it would mean Hoskins is probably available. The Cubs have been floated by a few insiders as a good fit, including's MLB Insider Robert Murray.

If the Cubs sign Hoskins, he's their starting first baseman, no doubt. But what does that do for Morel if the franchise is grooming him for such a role? With little confidence from the team in the other slots, it relegates him primarily to designated hitter.

But general manager Jed Hoyer acknowledged in GM meetings -- per Patrick Mooney and Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic (subscription required) -- that other teams might see Morel as a second baseman. If the Cubs aren't going to use him there -- and they shouldn't, rostering Nico Hoerner -- they might as well liquidate.

The Cubs will need to make decisions soon about Morel and exactly how well he fits into the picture. The Cubs are hinting toward big moves, but some of those big moves might shift the timeline and roster makeup in ways that put favorites on the outs.