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Can the Cubs and Nicholas Castellanos really figure out a way for him to return?

It’s not impossible.

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Nicholas Castellanos’ famous “bat slam” after his homer vs. the Brewers August 30
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Many would like to see Nicholas Castellanos return to the Cubs after the great two months he posted in a Cubs uniform in 2019.

To review: He hit .321/.356/.646 (68-for-212) with 21 doubles and 16 home runs in just 51 games as a Cub. His total of 58 doubles between the Cubs and Tigers was just the 10th time in MLB history anyone had hit that many two-baggers in a season, and the most since Todd Helton hit 59 in 2001.

Castellanos was also seen by many as bringing “energy” to a team that lacked it.

In this article in The Athletic, Sahadev Sharma lays out the case for the Cubs keeping Castellanos. As always, it comes down to money:

But with ownership cracking down hard on spending, Epstein has to maneuver around an inelastic budget. Signing Castellanos would require both shedding salary and finding space in the outfield. The Cubs were fine with an outfield alignment of Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward and Castellanos for two months, but a full season of that defense doesn’t inspire confidence.

The defense would have to be worked on. Heyward is obviously much better as a right fielder than a center fielder, and Castellanos has negative numbers all across his fielding stats in right field, per Fangraphs.

Since the Cubs have essentially decided they would have to cut salary to afford Castellanos, Sharma has another suggestion:

Of course, the Cubs would still have to trade another significant piece — or at least one making significant money — to make this deal work. Bryant would be an obvious choice, but if they could find value for José Quintana, that would be a possible route as well. Then they’d have to replace either of them.

I’ve suggested a trade of Jose Quintana previously. His contract is affordable for any team looking for an inning-eating starter. Q has made at least 31 starts for seven consecutive seasons. His numbers from 2019 don’t look great, but they are skewed by a horrific September. Before September he looked like he was going to have essentially the same year he had in 2018, when he posted 2.2 bWAR in the Cubs rotation.

Yes, the Cubs would have to replace Q if they traded him, but then they might have the money to sign Castellanos, and Sharma notes the leadership qualities that Castellanos brought to the Cubs clubhouse in 2019:

Bringing Castellanos back and having Anthony Rizzo take another step forward as a leader could finally give Epstein the type of clubhouse atmosphere he’s been searching for since the 2016 season ended. Both players bring their own unique energy. Recreating what the team had in 2016 shouldn’t be and isn’t the goal. The Cubs see this as a chance to build something new, which includes finding the right group of players to foster a new culture.

That’s an important thing, and Castellanos is also searching for a team that wants those sorts of leadership qualities:

Money matters, but all things being (nearly) equal, Castellanos is searching for a team ready to embrace him as a potential leader and one that is committed to building a winning culture. In his discussions with various organizations, Castellanos sees the Giants, Rangers and Cubs as three teams who value him for more than just his offense and that treat “clubhouse culture” as more than just T-shirts and talking points.

Let’s be clear. The Cubs and the Ricketts family are awash in dollars. They could break through the luxury tax levels and sign Castellanos right now if they wanted to. But the Cubs, along with many other MLB teams, have chosen not to break through the top luxury tax level. In addition, the Cubs appear to be waiting for the decision in Kris Bryant’s grievance arbitration before they make any major moves. At the Winter Meetings, Theo Epstein expressed confidence that the Cubs would win that decision, but I suppose they really don’t want to do anything until that one’s in the books. At this point, a week before the holidays likely send everyone home for a while with no major decisions made, that arbitration ruling might not happen until early January.

Even with the defensive liabilities an outfield of Schwarber, Heyward and Castellanos, it might be worth doing for the offense, energy and leadership Castellanos would bring to the team.

As always, we await further developments.


Regarding Nicholas Castellanos returning to the Cubs...

This poll is closed

  • 55%
    Bust through the luxury tax and sign him
    (661 votes)
  • 27%
    Wait until some salary is cleared, then sign him
    (320 votes)
  • 15%
    Too expensive, bad defense, move on
    (183 votes)
  • 1%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (21 votes)
1185 votes total Vote Now