It became an anthem after his trade to the Chicago Cubs at the deadline, but like we said all along in our more contemplative moments, the matter of extending or re-signing Nick Castellanos was a bit of a complicated one.
There are positional issues to sort out, defensive questions to be answered, inconsistent levels of offense to determine, and finances to consider. Bundle that stuff together, and you get a really challenging free agency calculus for any team, much less a Cubs team that would have to put Castellanos full-time in right field and move Jason Heyward full-time to center field to make a fit work.
… but, deep down, you know you still want to figure out a way to make it work. Castellanos will be just 28 next year, his gap-to-gap approach is freaking perfect for Wrigley Field, and he’s got the kind of hunger, energy, and philosophy that just makes him a guy you want in your clubhouse. Also, he doesn’t cost draft pick compensation to sign, so that’s always a bonus.
So, that is to say, from a fan perspective, I think many or most Cubs fans want to see him back.
And, importantly, Castellanos, himself, has already said that he’d like to be back with the Cubs, assuming the free agent process works itself out.
But what about the Cubs? For as much ink as we’ve spilled about a future marriage, the only sense we’ve gotten from the Cubs came from Theo Epstein’s season-ending presser, and it was exactly what you’d expect him to say: we love everything about Nick Castellanos, and in the abstract, we’d love to have him back. In other words, it’s not a lock that the Cubs would actually pursue a realistic reunion, depending on where Castellanos’s contract demands wind up.
But Jordan Bastian throws us a bone!
In his great write-up of five questions facing the Cubs this offseason, he takes on this one: “Which internal free agent is the biggest priority to re-sign?”
And though Bastian could have easily selected Brandon Kintzler (whom I would definitely like to see the Cubs re-sign), he went a little bolder (emphasis mine):
“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.”
To me, this situation has a bit of a different feel from years past when the Cubs – and the departing player – say the expected things about, oh, you know, maybe, sure, I think, OK, it’s possible we could be back. I really do think there’s a genuine desire on both sides to make a deal work if possible.
As we’ve discussed, the Cubs’ financial situation is intentionally opaque right now, but there are realistic ranges in a Castellanos contract that could work for the Cubs. As I’ve explored, the comps for him are super difficult to fit – primarily because of his young age and questionable defense – but you could see his side making that big five-year, $100 million argument. And you could see teams making a credible argument for as low as three years and $45 million.
Either way, I don’t expect Castellanos to be an extremely early signing free agent, and it might be a case where the Cubs just stay in touch for months because (1) they’d like to have him back, (2) it depends on what kind of offers he’s getting, and (3) it depends (for both sides) on what else the Cubs do this offseason.
It’s good to know there’s mutual interest, though.