Perhaps even more than their “manic” attempts to unload a core player, the paradox of Schrödinger’s Castellanos best defines the Cubs’ offseason. That would of course be their pursuit of second-half hero Nicholas Castellanos, who still appears to be on the radar despite a relatively hefty price tag that the cost-conscious Cubs would seemingly be inclined to turn back over inconspicuously. And when the shop owner is Scott Boras, a man staunchly disinclined to offer discounts, there may be no option to haggle.
Except that this case may be a little different, especially when you’re talking about a guy like Castellanos who’s more than willing to speak his mind and make sure his agent knows who’s boss. The outfielder experienced a resurgence in Chicago, breaking the surface after a long time underwater in Detroit, and reports of mutual interest in a reunion with the Cubs have been around for more than a month.
That continued Tuesday, with MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi writing that the Cubs have “ongoing interest” in Castellanos. That interest is significant enough that Morosi used it as the lede to his brief column about the Giants, who recently hired former Cubs assistant general manager Scott Harris as their own GM, taking a hard look at Castellanos. Maybe it’s just an editorial quirk, but that sure feels like A Thing.
Or it could just be a matter of the Cubs maintaining tabs on Castellanos, whose game fits as well at Wrigley as his personality does with the refreshed attitude David Ross is trying to cultivate in the clubhouse. Rather than simply giving Boras additional leverage in negotiations, that synergy is something that really works in the Cubs’ favor. Castellanos will be a perfectly cromulent player no matter where he goes, but his post-trade performance exceeded even the most optimistic projections for how getting away from Comerica Park would help.
At the risk of getting a little corny, you also have to consider how Chicago appeals to the artistically-inclined outfielder. Every city has its share of cool things to do and places to live and visit, but the Second City’s unique vibrancy may have struck such a chord with Castellanos that he’d be willing to take less money to live there long-term. Some guys really place a premium on quality of life, which isn’t just a matter of money.
That said, money most definitely talks and the Cubs are speaking in whispers to this point. They may have raised their voices a little by making the overdue decision to non-tender Addison Russell, thereby saving $5 million or so in payroll. But it’s going to take a lot more than that to lure Castellanos back while still leaving room to ink another bullpen arm and maybe a starter. It might also create an outfield quandary, since it’s unlikely the Cubs would want to head into 2020 with Jason Heyward in center flanked by Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber.
Unless the front office is crazy serious about a strategy that has been based almost solely on intrinsic improvements from changes to the coaching and development infrastructure, there will have to be personnel changes. And when they’ve got a guy in Schwarber who out-hit Castellanos over the last two months of the season, it would seem that Heyward is the odd man out. That would necessitate a trade in which the Cubs eat a bunch of money and/or include some additional talent to offset Heyward’s salary, a move that might be more palatable with Castellanos locked in.
Rather than speculate any further on what would have to happen to facilitate a reunion with Castellanos, let’s just leave off confident in the knowledge that the door is still wide open. Or perhaps you prefer the skeptical flip-side that Boras is fanning those flames in order to increase the asking price for his client. Whatever the case, this doesn’t figure to be something that gets sorted out during the Winter Meetings.