Even if They Cool Down, Ian Happ and Nicholas Castellanos Are Big Upgrades

Do you remember those moments between roughly 2:55pm and 3:02pm CT when it looked like the Cubs weren’t going to add a bat at the trade deadline? As the trade deadline came and went, it appeared briefly as though the only real offense the team had added was via an “internal trade” with the call-up of Ian Happ.

Even though there was reason to believe Happ alone would provide a boost, it still felt like we were in store for some disappointing spin. That line became considerably easy to swallow when we learned that the team had indeed acquired Nicholas Castellanos from the Tigers.

If you’re inclined to view the two as a pair of acquisitions, they collectively represent a significant offensive upgrade at not one, but two positions. While it’s probably not reasonable to expect either Happ or Castellanos to maintain the level of production that they’ve enjoyed so far, just falling back to career norms would have them performing better than the players they replaced.

Player Three-year OPS+ 2019 OPS+
Castellanos 119 115 (233 with Cubs)
Happ 111 182
David Bote* 94 96
Albert Almora Jr. 87 74
Addison Russell 81 89

*Two-year sample

As with most offensive metrics, an OPS+ of 100 is roughly league average. Even if the Cubs’ new bats were simply to maintain anything near their three-year averages, they would represent significant upgrades from any of the other men listed above.

Beyond that, both Castellanos and Happ give the Cubs a new dimension of urgency by providing an edge that had been missing from the team throughout much of the season. Happ is playing with a chip on his shoulder ($) after being banished to Triple-A Iowa through late July and Castellanos is hungry after spending the last several years on terrible Tigers teams.

As such, the pair is able to impact the lineup even if they’re not driving the ball out of the park with the unexpected frequency they’ve displayed recently. That should last even if the numbers dip, but a return to norms still makes Happ and Castellanos valuable members of the everyday lineup.

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