The Rundown: Season Not Doomed with Castellanos Gone, Cubs Interested in Gennett, Pirates Trade Marte

It’s idioms time, friends and readers.

  • Bread always falls buttered side down.
  • A fool and his money are soon parted.
  • If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

First of all, I’d like to remind every Cubs fan to try to remain calm. If Nick Castellanos is the difference between the Reds winning and losing the NL Central, why did the Cubs finish out of the playoffs last season?

Big Stick Nick is gone, and he was never really coming back, and it’s time we all stopped expecting the big reveal. It happened once, when the Cubs re-signed Dexter Fowler, but it took a perfect storm of variables colliding at one time to bring the center fielder back on a one-year deal in 2016. And while we are at it, let’s kill a few narratives.

  1. Adding Castellanos does not make Cincinnati the favorites to win the NL Central. They are a much improved team, though, and should challenge for the division or a Wild Card slot, especially if Trevor Bauer can pitch like he did for the Indians.
  2. What did the Reds actually gain by unveiling their new right fielder yesterday if they have to trade Nick Senzel to accommodate Castellanos? That answer would be one win. Break out the champagne.
  3. It would be extreme folly to believe that, over the course of a full season, Castellanos will be the 151 OPS+ player he was after being traded to the Cubs last July.
  4. Yes, Nicky Two-Bags is a force in the lineup, but he’s still a liability in the outfield.
  5. The Cubs may be better with Steven Souza Jr. platooning with Jason Heyward in right than had they signed Castellanos and moved Heyward to center. At the very least, Souza provides more outfield flexibility.
  6. Ian Happ had a pretty stellar September last year and he could have a breakout season based on projections.
  7. If you still want to pin your hopes on Castellanos returning to Chicago, he has opt-outs after both the 2020 and 2021 seasons. But If I had my druthers, I’d like the Cubs to sign Mookie Betts or George Springer and extend some of their core players next winter.
  8. The Cubs have bigger question marks in their rotation, their bullpen, at second base, and in center field. Signing Castellanos would have been nice if he was the one piece that could almost guarantee a World Series, much like Aroldis Chapman was when Theo Epstein traded for the closer in ’16. Chicago has more pressing needs right now.
  9. The baseball budget is what it is and ownership is not going to extend themselves any further, no matter how much it irritates any of us.

Let’s face it, watching Big Nick Energy sign with a division rival gave disgruntled Cubs fans all the ammunition they needed to continue to rip into the perceived miserly ways of owner Tom Ricketts. We already knew he was never going to sign off on the expenditure. And, as much as Epstein enjoyed the fire and excitement that the right fielder brought to Chicago, he’d be making a poor decision had he been given ownership approval to sign the fan favorite, considering the team’s other needs.

The president of baseball operations has said on many occasions that he does not like to disappoint the team’s fans, and in the end, fate will probably determine that he hasn’t. Meanwhile, let’s not write the season off just because Castellanos will be playing for the Reds. Sure it stings, but it’s hardly the end of the world.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Take a deep breath and trust that the Cubs are still capable of winning the division, even if they do not make another move.
  • Castellanos will earn $64 million over four years, with opt-outs after the first two years of the deal. There’s a mutual option for 2024 at $20 million with a buyout of $2 million.
  • Souza could theoretically see time at both corner outfield spots in a rotation with Heyward and Kyle Schwarber.
  • At less than half the cost, Schwarber compares favorably to Castellanos offensively.
  • The Cubs are apparently interested in free agent second baseman Scooter Gennett and have been for some time. Gennett had a miserable 2019 campaign, but was one of the more productive second basemen in the game as recently as 2017-18, slashing .303/.351/.859 with 50 home runs over the two seasons. If he signs he offers real upside potential.
  • Baseball Prospectus placed four Cubs prospects in their annual Top 101.
  • This Cubs fans took advantage of a traffic mishap to provide a few laughs for her Lakeview neighbors.

Tuesday Stove

Now that free agency is all but over, the White Sox, Yankees, Angels, and Reds should be considered the big winners so far this winter.

The Diamondbacks and Pirates have agreed on a trade that sends Pittsburgh outfielder Starling Marte to Arizona for pitching prospect Brennan Malone and young shortstop Liover Peguero.

MLB umpires may be mic’d up for TV and in-stadium explanations after ruling on video replay decisions. They may also explain rules, if necessary.

The Brewers signed oft-injured starting pitcher Shelby Miller to a minor league deal.

Ryan Braun is undecided on his future, and may elect to retire once his contract expires at the end of this season.

Dustin Pedroia represents a cautionary tale on the downside of guaranteed MLB contracts.

Jessica Mendoza may be on her way out of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball booth.

Extra Innings

In my mind, this is how I’d like to think that negotiations between the Cubs and NBC-owned Comcast are going. I still fully believe an agreement is forthcoming, even if there are no signs saying so. Though the organization and their proprietary network shouldn’t be required to perform social media triage, yesterday would have been a good day to assuage fans who are concerned they will not be able to access Marquee when it launches on February 22.

Then again, I read one tweet from a gentleman yesterday who stated he “wasn’t going to pay $300 a month” to watch the Cubs after letting Castellanos walk. I’d probably question why he didn’t cut the cord after watching the past three seasons of the White Sox, Bulls, and Blackhawks. If you’re paying that high a monthly cable bill, I’d say you have far too many premium channels and maybe that’s the bigger issue.

They Said It

  • “I got a lot of at-bats [at Iowa]. I used it as a learning process. To be able to come back and have success, it was a good way to finish the season.” – Ian Happ
  • “So now, same player on the roster — and I understand the definition of insanity — but to expect Ian Happ to grow from what he’s gone through and benefit from the coaching that he’s gotten, and the lessons that he’s learned and the adversity that he’s gone through, and go out and be a productive player for us next year in a certain role, I don’t think is insane.” – Theo Epstein

Tuesday Walk Up Song

Tear-Stained Eye by Son Volt. He’s gone, let it go.

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