Rhys Hoskins will be joining the National League Central, but it's not who you think. After being linked to the Chicago Cubs throughout the offseason, the free agent first baseman has reportedly agreed to terms with the Milwaukee Brewers on a two-year, $34 million contract.
The Cincinnati Reds will now have to deal with Hoskins several times in 2024 as the former Philadelphia Phillies' slugger will undoubtedly be slotted in the heart of the Brewers batting order. Hoskins, who missed all of last season after suffering a torn ACL during spring training, has 25 or more home runs during four of his six seasons in the big leagues.
And while Milwaukee will certainly enjoy having Hoskins' bat in the lineup, this is bigger loss for the Cubs than it is a gain for the Brewers. Chicago set out to make a big splash in free agency this winter, but missing out on Hoskins is just the latest example of a swing and a miss from the Cubs' front office.
Cubs' continued hibernation this winter bolsters Reds' chances to win the NL Central
The Cubs were said to be involved in the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes. They failed, and Ohtani signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Chicago was a rumored destination for Tyler Glasnow. That never materialized, and the former Tampa Bay Rays' starter is in LA. Shane Bieber was supposedly on the Cubs' radar, but the 2020 AL Cy Young Award-winner is still in in Cleveland.
The Cubs were seen as the most logical destination for Hoskins all offseason, and were oftentimes referred to as the frontrunner. But, for whatever reason, Jed Hoyer and the Chicago front office dropped the ball, and they'll be seeing the right-handed slugger on a regular basis when they play the Brewers in 2024.
The Cubs have also failed to re-sign Cody Bellinger. Spring training is almost upon us, and Chicago's biggest free agent is still unsigned. While most experts agree that a reunion between Bellinger and the North Siders is inevitable, the longer the former NL MVP stays on the open market, the more likely he signs with another team willing to meet his excessive salary demands.
Rhys Hoskins' deal keeps the Cubs behind the Reds in the race for NL Central supremacy
While the Brewers pulled away from everyone last season, not much was separating the Reds and Cubs in the NL Central standings. Cincinnati has added a middle-of-the-order bat in Jeimer Candelario (who played for the Cubs last season), while also adding some depth to the rotation and the bullpen.
The Cubs, on the other hand, have signed Shōta Imanaga and added infielder Michael Busch. Imanaga has pitched well in Japan, but coming to the big leagues is a whole different animal. Not every player adjusts once they arrive states-side; just ask former Reds outfielder Shogo Akiyama.
Busch has been a solid prospect for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but his brief appearance in 2023 wasn't a glowing success. Busch hit just .167/.247/.292 in 27 games for LA last season. Busch does, however, have a strong record in the minors with a career-OPS of .919.
Reds fans, of course, have seen similar numbers from another highly-touted prospect. The past three seasons, Jose Barrero's OPS in the minors is sitting at .831. The Cubs are playing a dangerous game if they're relying on a rookie like Busch and an international signing like Imanaga to be the crown jewel of their offseason acquisitions.
Now, the 2024 regular season has yet to begin, and the Cubbies certainly have the means to make an impactful signing or trade. But to date, it's been a disappointing winter for those fans on the North Side of Chicago, which only makes the Reds' offseason moves more effective. As the Reds, Brewers, and St. Louis Cardinals are jockeying for superiority, the Cubs are lagging behind.