I dig a good "old wives' tale" now an again. By that, I mean things sports fans reference repeatedly, as if trying to make them true. Last summer, the Nick Castellanos trade was almost enough to perk the Cubs’ offense into the playoffs. After that failed to happen, the hope was that the Cubs would re-sign him. When that didn't happen, that his contract contained an opt-out that left one final hope. But Castellanos won't use that opt-out to rejoin the Cubs.
The fun part of writing for me is writing. For many journalists, having sources to quote anonymously makes the world go around. In my last decade or so of writing, I think I've had a source twice, in entirely different circumstances. In both times, I was accurate. I can see the appeal of having sources across an organization or league, but the entire "I'll use your quote without you name attached" seems unseemly to me. It's fine for other people, but on a certain minor-league evening, I'd prefer to listen to a minor league pitching coach in a pre-game interview. If the quote seems applicable, I'll quote him, and attribute it to him, and the interviewer. Above-board, all the way. And then, tell you which hitter had three good at-bats against a top 50 prospect, because I was watching or listening.
However, with journalists, quite often, it's about having a source, and getting a scoop. "An unnamed club official noted," and if the anonymity goes away, so do the quotes, usually. Regarding Castellanos, he almost certainly won't opt out of his Cincinnati Reds contract this off-season, and I don't need a source to draw you the picture. A few bits of information matter quite a bit.
The first is, this is Castellanos' first monstrous payout. I have a question for you. How much money will Castellanos make this season? You can toss aside any number you see in Cot’s contracts, or anywhere else. Players will get "a portion" of what they had expected to receive. The longer the season, the more they get paid, likely. It's different this year than other seasons. Castellanos' first expected eight-figure campaign won't be an eight-figure campaign. Having a degree of safety and security is rather important for the player wanting that first big paycheck.
The way it works in the off-season will be that Castellanos decides first if he wants to opt-out or not. Protocol isn't, and hasn't been in a long time, that teams try to poach players under contract to another team. That's referred to as tampering. That's a serious offense, and if the Cubs tamper with a player under contract with one of the other 29 teams, they deserve whatever punishment they get. As far as saying "just tell his agent you'll offer him...", if that gets back to the Reds, they'd deserve a whole fistful of high Cubs draft picks for the serious violation.
Not only will Castellanos want the guaranteed money, and not only is tampering a serious violation, there's no realistic reason to believe owners are going to spend heavily in free agency in an environment of a possible strike or lock-out looming. While I don't often claim sources, I try my hardest to learn lessons from what's going on in baseball as quickly as possible. Owners pushed back the July 2 international signing bonus period because they didn't want to spend money. They almost certainly could have gotten loans of credit at incredibly low rates. They decided to not spend any money on international talent until mid-January instead of early July. Few teams aggressively sought out Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. In general, it appears, owners want to set a number for their executives to spend under, and tolerate weaknesses on the roster that develop because of those decisions.
I was told in the off-season between 2017 and 2018 that it was incredibly fortuitous that the Cubs had signed Tyler Chatwood, Brandon Morrow and Yu Darvish. Up to now, only Darvish looks like a wise investment. One for three is about what you get in free agency, and owners are pushing executives to be better developing internally, as they eliminate roster spots with which to develop.
The fun part for me is to discover the keys to the hidden game. How can one accurately guess the waiver wire additions or minor league signings that pay off big? Which minor league players outside the top ten in organizations are worth pushing for in trades, and why? Which internet rumors, while beneficial to the Cubs if they'd happen, are rubbish?
It's absurd for Castellanos to opt out of his Reds contract. If you want the Cubs to have a better (insert whatever position you wish to here), push for them to acquire that type of player in one of the two amateur phases. When baseball's being played, it's relatively easy to locate as sort of player the Cubs might be able to acquire. It take a bit of research and patience.
The funniest thing about the fictitious Castellanos opt-out to me is a bit ironic. I doubt Castellanos opts out, but let's imagine he does. And if the Cubs sign him, which they won't, the Cubs would surrender their second-round pick to the Reds for doing so. The funny thing is, that second-rounder equates to Burl Carraway, the lefty-pitching prospect who tosses 99 out of the bullpen. For quite a few people who mind the draft casually, Carraway is the most intriguing prospect in the draft because of his potential nearness to Wrigley. Baseball is about patience, deliberation, and developing assets as much as possible. Too many seem interested in diving on anything that might give a rapid payout, regardless the unlikelihood of it happening. Or fixing the problem that created the need.