Whenever a new rumor pops up on our radar, there are several benchmarks it needs to pass before it’s worth really obsessing over. For example … (1) Do we have a credible source? (2) Is the player actually available/likely to be traded? (3) Are the Cubs realistically interested in trading for this player/type of player? (4) Have there been any discussions with the Cubs? (5) What will it cost? And, finally (6) What other teams are involved?
And after Jon Morosi jumped on 670 the Score, we can answer each and every one of those with respect to Tigers outfielder and Cubs target Nick Castellanos.
Let’s go down the line …
(1) Do We Have a Credible Source?
Jon Morosi is an incredible source for MLB news and rumors and is very well-respected industry-wide. Had he been the only person reporting the Cubs interest in Castellanos, it would’ve been enough. Fortunately, as we’ve seen, everyone and their mother knows that the Cubs are interested in Castellanos right now.
(2) Is He Actually Available/Likely to be Traded?
The Detroit Tigers are in last place of the AL Central and 29.0 games behind the Twins. They’re literally the worst team in baseball and Nicholas Castellanos is a free agent at the end of the year. He’s available. More than available. There’s really no question about it. Technically, yes, the Tigers could hold onto him and hand him a qualifying offer at the end of the year (hoping that he’d reject it, so that they’d receive draft pick compensation), but Morosi reports that the Tigers do not want to go that route.
Oh, yeah, he also said: “I believe a trade is almost certain to happen.”
(3) Are the Cubs Interested in Trading for This Player/Type of Player?
Apart from the previously reported interest in Castellanos (which I think more than reveals their intentions), I think we all know the Cubs need to add someone that can hit left-handed pitching and no one does that better than Castellanos (198 wRC+). They also need to add someone to the outfield, in general, so broadly speaking, yes, Castellanos is a great fit for the Cubs. He’s probably the most impactful, realistically available/attainable bat on the trade market.
But to a more specific end, Morosi did say that “I don’t know how many teams are as interested in Castellanos as the Cubs are right now.”
(4) Have There Been Any Discussions with the Cubs?
When prompted on what the Cubs should do about Albert Almora’s struggles, Morosi said: “I’m thinking, of course, about Castellanos and the Tigers and the fact that they’ve talked to the Cubs mutually about the possibility of Nick [Castellanos] going to the North Side.” Why, hello!
Apparently, according to Morosi, the Cubs and Tigers have already “talked to the Cubs mutually” about sending Castellanos to Chicago. Don’t sleep on the relevance of that quote, because while many teams will show interest in acquiring or selling a player, fewer deals trickle down into the mutual agreement phase. Of course, the natural next question, then is …
(5) What Will It Cost?
Morosi dipped his toe into an answer here, but doesn’t give us anything concrete. Put differently, instead of saying exactly what it would cost, he decided to tell us what it wouldn’t, which eventually leads to my first NOPE of this particular rumor: “I would say, that the Tigers would probably say ‘no’ if the Cubs offered Almora for Castellanos straight-up …. The Tigers might say ‘Hey, I believe there’s a little bit more upside potentially in Ian Happ than there is in Almora.'”
I wouldn’t necessarily blame the Tigers for not wanting Almora, whose fantastic glove is paired with one of the league’s worst bats, but the Cubs would be silly to trade 4.5 years of cheap team control over a 24-year-old fast, switch-hitter, with pop and a great eye at the plate (even one with crippling strikeout numbers) for 2.5 months of a 27-year-old poor defensive outfielder who’s been only average against righties throughout his career.
I like Castellanos and I think he fits this team great, but not at the expense of Ian Happ. In fact, in a lot of ways, I like the idea of adding Castellanos *and* Happ to the active roster, because the two complement each other well (Happ against righties in center field with Heyward in right, and Castellanos against most lefties in right field with Heyward in center). Obviously, this wouldn’t be a strict platoon – I’m just thinking out loud – but I do like the look of that.
More the point, Brett checked back on similar deals for rental bats over the past few years, and discovered that the cost isn’t usually all that high. The only reason Brett couldn’t be certain about the cost, however, is that every market is different and if other teams were interested in Castellanos, that could drive the price up.
Enter: Jon Morosi.
(6) What Other Teams Are Involved?
Working in the Cubs’ favor, Morosi reports, “There are not that many teams looking for a corner bat – I believe – that are really actively involved with him. I can see the Phillies, of course … The Rays were interested reportedly, but now they’re falling back a bit in the division. I’m not sure the Cardinals are necessarily a great fit for Castellanos [even though they do want to add a bat].”
Morosi hammered home the poor fit with the Cardinals and the fact that the Rays – now 10.0 games out of first and behind three other teams in the Wild Card race – have drifted, but does seem to believe the Phillies could be in play, which tracks with everything else we’ve heard this rumor season. After all, the Phillies are 0.5 game out of the Wild Card and still plausibly within striking distance of the NL East in the first summer after a huge spending spree. They also have Andrew McCutchen and Jay Bruce on the Injured List, while their team 93 wRC+ against left-handed pitching ranks in the bottom half of the league. With plenty of budget space and a good enough farm system, they could be the Cubs biggest competition.
Ultimately, Morosi concluded, the price tag on Castellanos is high right now, but likely to come down. In his opinion, the Cubs would be wise to wait out the Tigers, who don’t have many options (at least, not any options as involved as the Cubs), to get a deal on their terms.