With just nine shopping days left until Christmas, I was aroused from my sleep several times between midnight and 3am by social media followers asking me if the Cubs have a secret deal in place to sign desired stocking-stuffer Nicholas Castellanos. On the surface, my answer would be that that’s doubtful. Though the Cubs could sign the right fielder and still remain beneath the payroll benchmark they set in 2019, there just seems to be a need for further roster moves to make the rumor anything more than questionable.
- Would Tom Ricketts approve the expenditure when all offseason indications up to this point are that he would not?
- Does that mean Jason Heyward moves to center field, which would weaken the team’s outfield if the Cubs start the season with Kyle Schwarber in left?
- Is Theo Epstein waiting on confirmation of a trade involving one or more of his core players to be finalized first?
It makes absolutely no sense to have a deal in place and not announce it. The source of the alleged leak is Mike Murphy, a Cubs fan lifer and former morning radio host back when 670 The Score first began broadcasting as WSCR. These days, Murphy hosts a program on ESPN radio with Fred Huebner called The Murph & Fred Show. Murphy didn’t name any of his sources, but claims Epstein has asked Castellanos and his agent, Scott Boras, to keep the deal quiet, no doubt a tall task.
Talk about a mouthful of salt! Have you ever heard the expression that salt is more useful in association than isolation? Oh, I sounded like Boras there.
I certainly don’t want to discredit anybody, but it all just seems more than a bit sketchy to me. If the Cubs are truly intent on reducing their payroll, this trade only works if the front office can move Heyward or Kris Bryant in a simultaneous trade. Trading either would leave the Cubs with a big hole in the outfield or at third base and I’m not sure the end result would be a better team than the one that rolled over and died at the end of the 2019 season. Not to mention, the Cubs have too many other needs to go chips in on just one player.
Of course anything is possible, but this seems to be — and I’m putting it nicely — a bit unrealistic. You’re free to run with the speculation if you like, and I suppose the Cubs remain a potential option until Castellanos signs with another team. That said, Murphy is the only source and it seems odd, if not completely off base, that none of baseball’s noted national insiders have followed up with any acknowledgement or further clarification.
Further, the Giants, Reds, Rangers, and Diamondbacks reportedly all have varying degrees of interest in the free agent right fielder. Those rumors have been reported by the best in the business, including Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi, and should serve to escalate the cost to sign Castellanos to a level which would be more than a little uncomfortable. For now, and barring any breaking news, let’s file this one under things that make you go hmmm.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs and reliever Brandon Morrow have agreed on a one-year contract. It’s a minor league deal that will pay Morrow $1 million if he pitches at the major league level, with an additional $1.25 million in incentives. It works for both sides: the Cubs get a potentially elite reliever for practically nothing, and Morrow gets a chance to rebuild his value.
- Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times indicates that the Cubs are neither rebuilding nor all-in for 2020. How is that possible? Probably because the Cubs are still undecided while considering more than just a single navigational course when they talk to other teams about their potentially available players.
- Yu Darvish has no interest in waiving his no-trade clause if the front office attempts to trade him.
- Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch seems genuinely puzzled that the Cubs would even consider trading any of their core players.
- Trading any of their better players could cause further ramifications for the Cubs, though I would hope that the goal of any offseason moves would be to make the team better rather than worrying about selling broadcast rights to Marquee or meeting capacity needs at the Zachary Hotel.
- Shogo Akiyama is expect to decide soon where he will play in 2020. The Cubs are one of four teams the center fielder is considering.
- The Nationals love Bryant and would like to trade for him but it’s just a little more complicated than that.
Apropos of Nothing
It’s certainly no indication that the Cubs won’t consider trading Victor Caratini, but based on the second half performance of Darvish, it seems like moving the backup catcher in trade is something of a longshot.
Yu complete me.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) December 12, 2019
Updates on Nine
- The top two remaining free agent outfielders are Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna. Of the two, it appears Nicky Two Bags presents the better value. His defense seems to be trending up and his offensive production after arriving in Chicago indicate he has elevated his game to another level. Ozuna also rejected a qualifying offer from the Cardinals, so the lack of draft pick compensation attached to Castellanos is the cherry on top.
- The White Sox have an outfielder in their organization who could potentially be better than Eloy Jimenez. In 122 games at three minor league levels in 2019, Luis Robert hit .328 with 32 home runs and 92 RBI. He also stole 36 bases, becoming the first Sox minor-leaguer since 1988 to join the 30-30 club.
- Imagine signing a pitcher to a record breaking contract, breaking the $300 million barrier in doing so, and then having to defend yourself for a lack of moves in previous seasons. Such is the unfathomable plight of Yankees president of baseball operations Brian Cashman.
- Cleveland ace Corey Kluber has reportedly been traded to the Rangers. The Indians can expect a decent haul for the veteran righty, who will earn $17.5 million in 2021 while carrying an $18 million team option for 2021. Kluber finished 2-3 last year and didn’t pitch after May 1 due to a broken forearm.
- The Twins are not often associated with the top of the free agent market, but Minnesota is said to be actively engaged in trying to sign Josh Donaldson. The Nationals and Braves are oft-mentioned as the frontrunners to sign the third baseman.
- The Mets and Yoenis Céspedes have agreed to a restructuring of the outfielder’s contract based on a previously-settled injury grievance. The amended contract will significantly lower the star outfielder’s guaranteed salary for the upcoming season from the $29.5 million he is owed, a source told ESPN’s Jeff Passan. It is uncertain if Céspedes will play at all in 2020.
- The Yankees reportedly remain interested in trading for Brewers closer Josh Hader. Some have indicated that New York would consider adding Hader to their rotation, though he only has two pitches in his repertoire.
- Some teams are interested in trading for Philadelphia starter Nick Pivetta. The right-hander has so much upside that “teams have called often to inquire” about him, and that the Phillies might look to package him in a deal with a few mid-level prospects to “secure a pitching upgrade in the majors.”
- Though The Onion strictly lampoons traditional media as a way of striking back at fake news stories disguised as actual events, their piece on former Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa is worth a chuckle or two.
— The Onion (@TheOnion) December 13, 2019
This is getting downright ugly and is a terrible look for Rob Manfred.
Some key points of dispute:
? Increases in player compensation
? Facility upgrades
? Team relocation
? Dream Leaguehttps://t.co/lSzEarvwPG
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) December 15, 2019
They Said It
- “We have a sense of which teams are interested in our player. I don’t think a team that hasn’t checked in with us and hasn’t expressed interest … all of a sudden comes out of the woodwork. We know the players involved. I don’t think we know [which teams] will be involved yet … because a lot of those teams are in the free-agent market as well.” – Jed Hoyer
Sunday Walk Up Song
Pleasant Valley Sunday by the Monkees. There’s more gossip surrounding the Cubs than on any episode of The Real Housewives series on the Bravo Network. By the way, this effort by the Monkees is arguably the best pop song ever made.