Following the World Series, 131 players officially became free agents including eight from the Cubs. Yet, there’s one who clearly fans want back the most and it seems like the front office is on board too. Of course, at the end of the day money talks.
Without Nick Castellanos, the Cubs most likely fall out of playoff contention in August. By the end of the season the spark that Castellanos provided to the team ran out, but the desire to stay with the Cubs remained for the outfielder.
The 27-year-old had the best year of his career, posting an .862 OPS in 2019, carrying the Cubs offense for most of the 51 games he played for Chicago after the Tigers traded him on July 31. Castellanos slashed .321/.356/.646, with 16 home runs and 21 doubles in 212 at-bats after the trade.
There’s a lot to love about the outfielder…except for his outfield defense, but his hitting profile is perfect for Wrigley Field and he really did bring some much needed energy after the Cubs traded for him.
Jordan Bastian, the Cubs beat reporter for MLB.com, discussed Castellanos in a recent Q/A article about the team’s offseason and there’s one line that stands out. There’s mutual interest in getting a deal done between the Cubs and Castellanos. This was also framed under who’s the team’s top priority to re-sign among the Cubs free agents.
Which internal free agent is the biggest priority to re-sign?
That would be outfielder Nicholas Castellanos. Not only did Castellanos instantly become a fan favorite, but he energized the team and sparked the offense with incredible production in the second half. He’s a unique free agent, given that he is entering his age-28 season. Agent Scott Boras will be aiming to capitalize on Castellanos’ breakout season, but there is mutual interest and a definite fit. Castellanos will also be watching how the Cubs approach this offseason and factoring that into his decision. After experiencing a playoff chase with Chicago, Castellanos very much wants to keep that taste in his mouth.
One of the things the Cubs don’t have to worry about when exploring a deal with Castellanos is losing a draft pick. But there are several factors that don’t necessarily make a reunion a sure thing.
This isn’t to say the Cubs shouldn’t do everything possible to re-sign Castellanos, but then you have to worry about full seasons of an outfield defense made up of Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward in center and Castellanos in right. There’s also the Scott Boras factor and as we’ve seen in the past he’s more than willing to wait things out before closing a deal for his clients.
Can the Cubs afford to wait until February to re-sign Castellanos when this should be a busy winter of re-tooling the roster? And finally, who knows how much money ownership is going to let the front office spend. We’ve seen the business side say the team should still have one of the top payrolls in 2020, but Tom Ricketts’ latest comments sure do sound like an owner who wants to slash payroll to get below the lowest tier of the luxury tax.
One thing that could ultimately help the Cubs is that during the last couple offseasons, unless you’re one of the top players in your free agent class you’re not going to get a mega contract in free agency. It’s tough to compare Castellanos to previous free agent outfielders, but there have been estimates as low as $31 million over two years, or $45 million over three, mainly because of his poor defense.
Yet, after an incredible two months, Boras is obviously going to look to capitalize on Castellanos’ success.
But man, this just seems like a perfect fit on both sides. We’ll see what the next four months brings Cubs fans.