CHICAGO — Heading into 2023, it’s a pivotal offseason the MLB’s fourth most-valuable franchise.

With a farm system on the rise, it’s time for the Cubs to stop acting like rebuilders and compete for an NL Central that doesn’t feature a clear juggernaut at the top. Just a few days into the 2022 Winter Meetings, it appears the Cubs are going to spend big.

On Tuesday afternoon, they Cubs inked former 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger to a one-year, $17.5 million deal. That night, reports surfaced that the North Siders boosted their rotation by signing Jameson Taillon to a four-year, $68 million deal.

On Monday, Trea Turner, one of four superstar shortstops available, signed a massive 11-year deal with the Phillies. Reports indicate that the Cubs met with Turner and the three other shortstops; Correa, Bogaerts and Swanson.

After not touching 75 wins that last two seasons, the Cubs need star power like Homer Simpson needs donuts. While Bellinger and Taillon are nice deals, the club needs a lot more to win a division next year.

Below is a roadmap to get Chicago back on top of the NL Central. With tons of depth in the minor leagues, the North Siders should get another chance at Theo Epstein’s favorite two words — “sustained success.”

Free agent signings:

Carlos Correa (10 years, $325 million)

After a gut-wrenching trade deadline in 2021, which sent World Series champions Rizzo, Bryant and Baez away, it’s time for the Cubs to add a bonafide superstar.

Enter Carlos Correa. Several reports indicated Monday that the Cubs met with the 28-year-old shortstop. Moving Nico Hoerner, who surprised some with a stellar glove last year, to second would instantly create one of the best middle infields in baseball.

Correa, a self-described analytics nerd, would be the most impactful signing since Jon Lester prior to the 2015 season. With a farm system on the rise, inking the two-time all-star would send a message to other free agents that Ricketts, Hoyer and company are done worrying about the luxury tax threshold.

As the holiday season rolls on, Correa is sure to remember when Cubs fans changed the words of “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” to “Correa come play in Chicago.”

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 14: Carlos Correa #4 of the Minnesota Twins in the first inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 14, 2022 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Kodai Senga (4 years, $75 million)

After signing Seiya Suzuki last offseason, the Cubs have been connected to Japanese ace Kodai Senga. While they’re some injury history concerns, unlike Suzuki, Senga comes without the usual posting fee associated with Japanese stars.

As of Tuesday, MLB insider Jon Heyman linked the Cubs, and five other teams, to Senga.

The 29-year-old’s splitter is so good it’s known as a “ghost forkball” in Japan. He throws a plus fastball that can top out in the upper 90s and has always had a top strikeout rate — but walks have been an issue.

A top four rotation of Senga, Stroman, Taillon and Hendricks would be the club’s best since their last period of contention.

YOKOHAMA, JAPAN – AUGUST 07: Pitcher Kodai Senga #21 of Team Japan throws in the sixth inning against Team United States during the gold medal game between Team United States and Team Japan on day fifteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Yokohama Baseball Stadium on August 07, 2021 in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan. (Photo by Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)

Trey Mancini (1 year, $10 million)

Matt Mervis, the Cubs’ top first base prospect, is in line to making the 2023 Opening Day roster. However, with the DH in the National League, the Cubs should be looking to add depth.

Notre Dame grad Trey Mancini was a consistent force in the Orioles’ lineup for four seasons before getting traded to Houston this season at the deadline.

He struggled with Houston, which could bring down his value to a one-year deal.

With Mervis likely to make the roster, both Mancini and the Duke product can alternate between first and DH as the coaching staff determines who is the better defender.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – OCTOBER 23: Trey Mancini #26 of the Houston Astros reacts to hitting. apop fly during the third inning against the New York Yankees in game four of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 23, 2022 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Christian Vazquez (2 years, $24 million)

Let’s pretend that Willson Contreras is not linked to the Cardinals for mental health purposes as the Cubs look for his replacement.

Vazquez, known for his defensive prowess and game planning, has been linked to the Cubs since winning his second World Series, this time with Houston.

In fact, fans noted that Vazquez recently started following the Cubs blog Bleacher Nation. He only follows 109 accounts on Twitter.

He’s not just a defensive catcher. In 2019 with Boston, the 32-year-old launched 23 home runs.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – OCTOBER 22: Christian Vazquez #9 of the Houston Astros celebrates the home run against the New York Yankees by teammate Chas McCormick #20 during the second inning in game three of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 22, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Andrew Chafin (1 year, $7 million)

There’s nothing wrong with convincing a former fan-favorite to comeback. Andrew Chafin, known as “Big Country” to Cubs fans during his short 2021 first-half stint with the club, has been lights out since 2020.

Lefties in the bullpen are always needed and after Oakland and Detroit — Chafin may want to shine again in a bigger market.

By semi-recent signings of Jason Hammel and Jake Arrieta, Cubs’ brass have shown they are not afraid of reuniting with players they let walk or traded.

MESA, ARIZONA – MARCH 03: Andrew Chafin #39 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the Seattle Mariners in the third inning on March 03, 2021 at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Ben Gamel (1 year, $2 million)

It’s not all going to be marquee signings and adding a veteran presence is always preferred for a young ball club. Utility outfielder Ben Gamel, who has spent time in the division with Milwaukee and Pittsburgh, can backup with Happ and Suzuki.

The lefty has been consistent against right-handed pitching and provides much-needed depth.

PITTSBURGH, PA – AUGUST 21: Ben Gamel #18 of the Pittsburgh Pirates throws a single off the bat of Jake Fraley #27 of the Cincinnati Reds back to the infield in the sixth inning during the game at PNC Park on August 21, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)


Trade Nick Madrigal for relief pitcher Dylan Floro

The Cubs can keep Nick Madrigal, who was the big piece in the 2021 Craig Kimbrel trade with the White Sox, but one more disappointing season will sink any potential trade value whatsoever.

With Hoerner likely moving to second and Morel in the utility role, it’s looking hard for the former #4 overall pick to get consistent at-bats.

Reports indicate the Marlins are open to trading most of their roster. Right-handed reliever Dylan Floro has been tough to hit since his cup of coffee with the Cubs in 2017 (9.2 innings.)

MIAMI, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 12: Dylan Floro #36 of the Miami Marlins pitches in the ninth inning against the Texas Rangers at loanDepot park on September 12, 2022 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)

Projected 26-man Opening Day roster

Starting Pitchers: Marcus Stroman, Justin Steele, Kyle Hendricks, Hayden Wesneski, Adrian Sampson, Kodai Senga, Jameson Tallion

Relief Pitchers: Keegan Thompson, Adbert Alzolay, Brandon Hughes, Rowan Wick, Codi Heuer, Dylan Floro, Andrew Chafin

Catchers: Yan Gomes, Christian Vazquez

Infielders: Matt Mervis, Nico Hoerner, Carlos Correa, Patrick Wisdom, Christopher Morel, Trey Mancini

Outfielders: Ian Happ, Seiya Suzuki, Cody Bellinger, Ben Gamel