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The 12 Days of Cubsmas: 2 fWAR from Nicholas Castellanos

The Cubs’ biggest trade acquisition came up big for his new team.

Nicholas Castellanos homers against the Cardinals in September
Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

At the very last minute of the trade deadline the Cubs were able to finalize a deal for Nicholas Castellanos. He was brought in to boost some pretty terrible team numbers against left handed pitchers, as I wrote the day after the trade:

The Castellanos acquisition in particular helps the Cubs in two ways. He’s an offense-first option at third base or in the outfield for a team that has struggled with offensive consistency all year. Second, the Cubs have struggled more against left handed pitchers than right handed pitchers in 2019. Castellanos has good handedness splits and is much better at facing left handed pitchers in 2019.

That article also included a look at the Cubs and Castellanos’ splits by handedness as of the trade deadline. I’m including it below because it provides a nice little before shot of who Castellanos was with the Tigers in 2019:

Cubs and Castellanos Offensive Splits

Player Split Avg OBP SLG wRC+
Player Split Avg OBP SLG wRC+
Cubs LHP .235 .319 .423 93
Castellanos LHP .347 .415 .611 166
Cubs RHP .256 .334 .454 103
Castellanos RHP .257 .308 .429 93
Select stats by handedness Fangraphs

The word on the street was pretty clear: solid bat, potential liability in right field. Castellanos was worth 0.8 fWAR in Detroit through July.

Well, something happened on the way to Chicago because Castellanos was everything the Cubs wanted and more. In just 51 games with his new team he was worth 2.0 fWAR. As this leaderboard from Fangraphs shows he was the sixth most valuable player on the team in one-third of the playing time:

Cubs Batting Leaders 2019

Castellanos just fit in Chicago. His offense was incredible, and while the sports talking heads keep warning about his poor defense, I’m not going to lie — I didn’t see it at Wrigley Field. Is Jason Heyward a better defensive right fielder? Obviously. But I never really saw Castellanos misplay a ball in a way that made me groan. In two months with the Cubs he played average defense and hit 16 home runs and 21 doubles. He slashed .321/.356/.646 with a wRC+ of 154. He was a fundamentally better player than he’d been in Detroit. Was it a fluke or something else?

My hunch is it was a bit of luck combined with a much needed change of scenery. Castellanos talked about his love of Wrigley Field, the fans and energy with the Sun Times where he said:

“By being in that environment, I was able to bring out the best version of myself,” he said. “And now, the most exciting thing of all to me is thinking about being able to bring all that over a full season to a team that believes it needs me in order to win.”

If it’s the Cubs?

“Incredible,” he said.

The maniacs in the right field bleachers would be delighted.

“I love the fans,” he said. “Being able to walk to and from the park, just seeing how much they genuinely love the Cubs … it’s awesome,” he said. “It’s great, it’s pure and it was a lot of fun to be part of that.”

He also gave us this perfect moment where he explained to the Chicago beat writers that every day is Opening Day [VIDEO]:

And who can forget the moment he and Kris Bryant donned matching Moana shirts in a nod to KB’s love of Disney movies?

Bryant and Castellanos in Moana shirts
NBC Sports Chicago

While the Cubs are still involved in talks with Nicholas Castellanos it feels like they’d need to make a move if they want to sign him. If that can happen, I don’t think there is any doubt that Cubs fans and Nicholas Castellanos would both like to see what he can do in a full season on the North Side of Chicago. A fan captured this picture after the last home game at Wrigley this season - I think it tells you everything you need to know:

On the second day of Cubsmas my true love gave to me 2 fWAR from Castellanos and a David Ross for manager.