Craig Counsell wants Christopher Morel to focus on playing third base

Craig Counsell wants Christopher Morel to focus on playing third base originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

One noticeable gap in the Cubs lineup lies at third base.

Attached to names like Matt Chapman this offseason to fill the spot with an everyday player, manager Craig Counsell told the media today he's looking internally for a more permanent corner infielder.

Who does he want to concentrate on playing at third base?

Look no further than utility man Christopher Morel. Morel, 24, has played 23 career games at third base, five of them last season in 2023. Counsell wants to give him a shot during Spring Training to make the corner his mainstay position for the regular season.

“Let’s evaluate that as we go, but let’s give him a chance at third base, let’s give him some consistency at third base,” Counsell said. “See where we’re at roster-wise at some point in camp and then go forward from there."

Morel has played quite literally everywhere on the field except first base since entering the league in 2022. But with a strong interior infield between Dansy Swanson and Nico Hoerner, plus a concrete outfield last season with Seiya Suzuki, Ian Happ and Cody Bellinger, Morel's struggled to find his place in the Cubs' lineup.

And that's a problem, given the offensive jolt Morel brings with his big bat. Last season, he hit a whopping 26 home runs and 70 RBIs in 107 games. He hit .247 from the plate with an outstanding .821 OPS, all during his sophomore campaign.

If he can make himself useful defensively at third base, it would be a huge help for the Cubs.

"Christopher's done so much with the bat, that it's our job to figure out the best way to deploy it," Counsell said.

Last season, Nick Madrigal, Patrick Wisdom, Jeimer Candelario and Miles Mastrobuoni each got their piece of the third base pie. They ranked 17th in WAR from the position, an obvious gap that needs filling this season if the Cubs want to advance to the playoffs.

Make no mistake, Morel will need some work at the position. As a third baseman, he holds a negative-4 defensive runs saved value. He's never been a spectacular defensive player, which is why the Cubs have long had struggles finding room for him in the lineup.

But the Cubs understand the benefit of having him in the batter's box as often as possible. Without Bellinger (yet, at least) or any big-name free agent star to help their offense, the Cubs will need every strong bat they can get in the lineup.

“I look at this as a young player who’s had a lot of offensive success at an early age,” Counsell said. “We’ve got to figure out positionally — we don’t have to decide today — but hopefully get some definition in what we are asking him to do defensively because there’s too much offense there to just ignore that, you know? Obviously finding a defensive position, or finding a role defensively, would help him, but frankly I need some time to kind of digest all that.”

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