The Chicago Cubs are coming off an 83-win 2023 season that ended in disappointing fashion, with a 12-16 September record leaving them one game back in the National League Wild Card race. However, the organization appears to be ready to take the next step in 2024.

Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer shocked the baseball world by replacing David Ross with Craig Counsell at manager on Nov. 6. Counsell becomes the highest-paid manager in Major League Baseball history, after leading the division rival Milwaukee Brewers to an NL Central title in 2023 (as well as 2018 and 2021).

So, the Cubs didn’t take long to display bold aggressiveness this offseason, and we should assume they stay aggressive this winter. If they can make the right moves, the Cubs have the opportunity to enter 2024 as a World Series contender and the NL Central team to beat.

With the Winter Meetings around the corner, here’s our look at 10 players the Cubs need to consider adding this offseason:

Shohei Ohtani, DH/P

Ohtani should interest every MLB franchise, and at least any franchise willing to spend big money (which should be every franchise, but alas). He’s the best player on the planet and unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

Yes, the two-way superstar won’t be able to pitch in the 2024 season due to elbow surgery. And who knows if he’ll return to the same starting pitcher workload in 2025+, or if he’ll even be a starting pitcher again (he’d make an elite reliever, at least).

What you know for sure is that you’re getting one of the top hitters in baseball, and very possibly the best hitter in baseball in a given season. That was the case in 2023, when Ohtani led the majors in OPS (1.066), wRC+ (180), and SLG (.654).

The Cubs desperately need a bat like this in the middle of their lineup, especially with Cody Bellinger – the team’s best hitter in 2023 – a free agent. Even with Bellinger, the lineup felt a bat or two short- Ohtani goes a long way to making up for all of that himself.

Yes, this is likely to be a $450-600 million commitment, but Ohtani provides significant business and off-the-field value; the Chicago Cubs could become a worldwide brand, and they’d especially be a huge deal in Japan with Ohtani and Seiya Suzuki starring on the team. And if you’re looking to get more Marquee Sports Network viewers and direct-to-consumer subscriptions, there’s not a more obvious move you could ever make.

Reports suggest that the Cubs are well aware of how much sense it makes to go “all in” on Ohtani.

Juan Soto, OF/DH

The fallback to Ohtani.

The San Diego Padres are looking to shed payroll and that’s naturally led to a ton of rumors around the possibility of trading Soto, who’s set to be a free agent after the 2024 season and will demand a massive contract.

The New York Yankees are said to be aggressive in their pursuit of Soto. The Cubs should be too.

While Soto has already played six MLB seasons, he just turned 25 years old in October. He has a career .946 OPS and 154 wRC+ over 3,375 plate appearances. The left-handed hitter offers a rare combination of power (career .524 SLG) and on-base skills (career .421 OBP). He’s even walked (19.0 BB%) more than he’s struck out (17.1 K%) in his career. His skills allow him to fit anywhere in the lineup.

Soto would give the Cubs elite bat their lineup currently lacks, and while the Padres certainly won’t just give him away, the trade cost shouldn’t be extreme for one year of a player. And the Cubs have arguably the best farm system depth in the majors. This is the sort of move that the prospect depth allows for.

Cody Bellinger, CF/1B

The fallback to Ohtani and Soto.

Bellinger, 28, had a terrific season for the Cubs in 2023. Perhaps too good in terms of their chances to keep him.

After multiple seasons with disappointing offensive numbers, the former Los Angeles Dodgers star had his best season since his 2019 NL MVP campaign. Bellinger put together a .307/.356/.525 slash line and 134 wRC+, while hitting 26 home runs and stealing 20 bases (in 26 attempts). He did that while striking out just 15.6% of the time (league average was 22.7%).

Additionally, Bellinger plays a strong center field and first base. He’d allow the Cubs to ease in top prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong in center field, while being able to be a good long-term defensive first baseman, adding to an infield that already features Gold Glovers Dansby Swanson and Nico Hoerner.

Now, there are some red flags with Bellinger. Will he remain very good after three straight down to bad seasons? And then there’s the concern of the batted-ball data, with his 87.9 mph exit velocity in 2023 being easily the lowest of his career (it was 91.1 mph in 2019, for example).

Photo Credit: FanGraphs

But, after the success the Cubs just had with Bellinger, it’s a big risk to let him get away- especially if they’re trying to get better. Ultimately, it may come down to his cost. There have been rumors that Bellinger — a Scott Boras client — could get north of $200 million in free agency, but perhaps his 2020-22 numbers and the 2023 batted-ball data drive down the price a bit.

Rhys Hoskins, 1B/DH

The fallback to Ohtani, Soto, and Bellinger.

The Cubs currently don’t have a starting first baseman and need to add impact bats, power. Hoskins offers a reliable option to fill these needs, and on what should be a reasonable two or three-year contract.

In 2023, Hoskins had a .246/.332/.462 slash line, with 30 homers, and a 122 wRC+. He has a career .242/.353/.492 slash line and has been a 2.0-2.4 WAR (wins above replacement) player per FanGraphs in five of his six seasons (2.3 WAR in 2023). With Hoskins, you generally know what you’re getting, and it’s a rock-solid run-producing bat.

Along these lines, Pete Alonso also makes plenty of sense as a Cubs target, but his trade cost – and upcoming contract demands – could get uncomfortable for the Cubs, if a title-hopeful New York Mets team were even willing to trade him.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto, SP

Now, this one will feature a lot of competition, especially from the Yankees and Mets. Yamamoto is only 25 and full of upside. After Japanese pitchers Yu Darvish and Kodai Senga proved to be the real deal in the majors, Yamamoto has many believers.

Recently, an MLB scout raved about Yamamoto to the New York Post, saying that the right-hander is better than Sonny Gray (signed a three-year, $75 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals earlier in the week) and Marcus Stroman (a free agent and two-time All-Star).

There are two smallish righties — 5-10 Sonny Gray and 5-7 Marcus Stroman — who have been All-Stars and exhibited durability. A scout who was highest on Yamamoto said he is better than that duo, noting his size, curveball and power down the mound are similar to Gray’s, but he possesses a “fastball and splitter that are far superior.”

“Yes, he has a smaller frame but he’s really athletic,” the scout said. “He has good energy down the mound. He has plus stuff across the board — a riding fastball, above-average curveball and a swing-and-miss type split. As far as Senga, he has better command than Senga, and is a better strike-thrower. He is only 5-10, but pitches like he’s 6-5. No fear. Aggressive. Loves to have the ball in his hand. Good look in his eyes. Typical Japanese delivery with a pause, sometimes two pauses. But good direction and energy down the mound. He can get swings and misses with the three main pitches.”

With Stroman gone, the Cubs need to pair a frontline-esque arm to join Justin Steele at the top of the rotation. Yamamoto’s contract is expected to easily exceed $200 million (and potentially even push closer to the $300 million range), but the age and ace potential make him a risk worth taking. This is also the kind of move that makes more sense if the Cubs miss on Ohtani and the big-money bats.

Tyler Glasnow, SP

If the Cubs don’t want to commit long-term and huge dollars to a starting pitcher this offseason, Tyler Glasnow is a short-term option that would be a great fit.

And Bruce Levine of 670 The Score reported on Thursday that the Cubs have engaged in talks with the Tampa Bay Rays on a possible trade for the right-hander.

As Levine alludes to, Glasnow is owed $25 million in 2024 and the small-market Rays are looking to unload that salary in exchange for young talent.

Additionally, Glasnow has durability question marks. The 30-year-old had Tommy John surgery in 2021 that kept him sidelined into late September of the 2022 season. In 2023, he suffered an oblique strain which delayed his season debut until May 27. And even with that delayed start, his 120 innings in 2023 were a career-high.

But when he’s on the mound, Glasnow can be as good as any pitcher in the league, combining filthy stuff with efficiency. Since 2019, the 6’8″ right-hander has a 3.03 ERA and 2.89 FIP over 332 2/3 innings pitched. In that time, he’s annually had a strikeout percentage of at least 33 (league average in 2023 was 22.7%). And in 2023, he did that while walking just 7.6% of hitters. He also produced a 51.2 groundball percentage in 2023, a skill that would play tremendously with the Cubs’ infield defense.

Brandon Woodruff, SP

Woodruff spent the last seven seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, starring under Counsell’s leadership. The Brewers non-tendered Woodruff in November after the right-hander had shoulder surgery that could force him into miss the entirety of the 2024 season.

So, this move is about 2025-plus, and Woodruff offers a lot of appeal there. He’s been one of the NL’s best starters — as the Cubs know all too well — over the last five years, and if he can return to form, he has ace upside. The Cubs are still looking for frontline talent to pair with Steele in the big picture.

And the familiarity, comfort factor between Woodruff and Counsell has to count for something too. It’s very possible that Chicago would be Woodruff’s desired landing spot for that reason.

Josh Hader, RP

Another longtime player for Counsell. Josh Hader was a relief ace for Counsell and the Brewers before being traded to the Padres during the 2022 season. In that 2022 season,  Hader struggled with a 5.22 ERA. But the left-hander returned to prime form in 2023, sporting a 1.28 ERA and frequently looking unhittable.

Paying relievers big money is always a risk, but Hader is a rare talent and the Cubs need more certainty in the back end of their bullpen. Pairing Hader with Adbert Alzolay in high-leverage duties would “shorten” games and allow Counsell to get creative with premier bullpen talent like he had in Milwaukee.

Robert Stephenson, RP

A former top prospect as a starting pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds, Stephenson thrived as a reliever for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2023 after being acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates in June.

Stephenson put together a 2.35 ERA and 2.45 FIP over 38 1/3 innings pitched with Tampa Bay, and he had superb strikeout-to-walk numbers (42.9 K%, 5.7 BB%). He showed off a pitch mix featuring a fastball that averages 97 mph, as well a filthy cutter which the Rays unlocked after he’d been slider-heavy in the past.

On a short-term deal, Stephenson is a very intriguing talent that could provide a huge upgrade to the Cubs’ bullpen.

Brent Suter, RP

Yes, another former longtime pitcher for Counsell and the Brewers. Suter served as a Swiss army knife on Milwaukee’s pitching staff from 2016-2022.

The funky left-hander was used in a variety of roles for Milwaukee (starter, reliever, long reliever, middle reliever, high-leverage reliever… you name it), and he was consistently effective. The success continued for Suter in 2023 — 3.38 ERA, 3.44 FIP — despite playing home games at Coors Field with the Colorado Rockies.

Suter has a 2.99 ERA over 271 1/3 innings pitched in his career as a reliever, and nobody knows how to put his game to use more than Counsell. Whether it’s multiple innings or getting three outs late in the game, Suter could be a high-impact reliever for the Cubs.

About Matt Clapp

Matt is an editor at The Comeback. He attended Colorado State University, wishes he was Saved by the Bell's Zack Morris, and idolizes Larry David. And loves pizza and dogs because obviously.

He can be followed on Twitter at @Matt2Clapp (also @TheBlogfines for Cubs/MLB tweets and @DaBearNecess for Bears/NFL tweets), and can be reached by email at