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The Cubs should not trade for Nicholas Castellanos

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The ballclub could use a bat, but not at the expense of defense.

Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Cubs are on pace to score 821 runs this season. That’s good, but that total ranks just fifth in the National League. They could use some offensive help.

Thus, this rumor posted Sunday is of interest:

Nicholas Castellanos can hit, no doubt about it, particularly against lefthanders. He is leading the American League in doubles (34) and is hitting .387/.458/.694 vs. LHP this season (in a fairly small sample size of 72 plate appearances), compared to .264/.318/.437 vs. RHP. His career numbers are much the same: .303/.358/.519 vs. LHP, .267/.314/.444 vs. RHP. He hit a walkoff homer [VIDEO] Sunday against the Blue Jays (off a lefthander, Tim Mayza, it should be noted).

But.

And that’s a big but, and why I am writing this article and why I put the provocative headline at the top. Castellanos is a terrible defensive player:

There’s little question Castellanos has value at the dish, but the same isn’t true of his work as a defender. And if he goes to the Cubs, he won’t be able to slot in as a designated hitter. Castellanos has combined for minus-33 Defensive Runs Saved and a minus-24.6 Ultimate Zone Rating since moving from third base to right in 2017. He’s at minus-7 and minus-4.0 in those categories this year.

Yikes, that’s horrendous. If Castellanos were acquired, he’d likely be slotted into right field, with Jason Heyward moving to center. This would be really sub-optimal for Cubs defense. Heyward plays plus defense in right field, but is only an average center fielder.

Given that Castellanos is a good, but not great, hitter vs. RHP but crushes LHP, he’d wind up being a platoon player. Now, if you’re talking about acquiring him to platoon with Kyle Schwarber in left field, that might be a workable idea. But the Cubs don’t seem interested in doing that. Further, Castellanos hasn’t played any left field at all since he played nine games there in his September callup year, 2013.

One of the reasons the 2016 Cubs won the World Series was that they played elite defense. Their Defensive Efficiency Ratio (essentially, what percentage of batted balls are turned into outs) was among the best in baseball history:

The 2019 Cubs aren’t that good. Their DER for this year is 707, and that currently ranks 11th in MLB. That’s decent, but not great. I’d hate to see them make it worse by putting one of the worst defensive outfielders in the game in right field, no matter how well he can hit.

For me, that’s a hard “no” on Nicholas Castellanos.

Poll

Should the Cubs trade for Nicholas Castellanos?

This poll is closed

  • 30%
    Yes! They need bats!
    (271 votes)
  • 69%
    No! Defense is paramount!
    (621 votes)
892 votes total Vote Now