I see that there’s a “report” blowing up in certain quarters right now, and I want to drop some thoughts on comments on it before it takes on a life of its own.
The predicate for the rumor is ESPN 1000 radio man Mike Murphy saying he’s been told – as of a month ago – that the Cubs and Nick Castellanos had agreed in principle to a deal, but that the Cubs told Castellanos to wait while they sort out their financial situation:
— Chicago Cubs Fan (@CubsFan0719) December 15, 2019
This is such a small snippet of Jesse Rogers’ appearance that I had to track down the full segment, which you can access here via ESPN’s podcasts. I’m sorry to say in advance that, when you listen to the whole appearance, you walk away feeling like there’s not really anything here. Murphy may very well have had sources telling him something like that a while ago, but for reasons discussed below, I don’t think you can put much into it going forward that we didn’t already know.
When you listen to the whole thing, Murphy doesn’t really allow an opportunity for a response, so Rogers doesn’t challenge or confirm the rumor initially. However, later, Rogers circles back twice to take issue with the “report.”
First, Rogers asks how you make Castellanos fit with the outfield mix (a legitimate concern that has made the rounds before), to which Murphy suggests that the plan was (is? would have been? it’s not entirely clear) to trade Schwarber. Rogers pushes back against that idea – note how he’s pushing back against it like guys chatting at the bar, not treating it as a report – and Murphy’s discussion on the Schwarber aspect becomes a lot more theoretical, as opposed to a “this is what I was told.” Rogers says the worry would be about becoming way too right-handed-reliant on power. (Feel free to debate that if you like, but my point in recounting it here is only to suggest that Rogers was politely pushing back on the idea of this being an actual report.)
Subsequently, Murphy asks Rogers what he thinks about all the moving parts, and again, Rogers explicitly expresses his doubts: “I don’t think he’s signing Castellanos. But if you have sources to say that, I’m not gonna disagree with you … you know … whatever.” Rogers moves past it quickly, and, when you take in the entire context of the conversation, it’s pretty clear Rogers has, uh, not heard the same things that Murphy indicates he’s heard.
What do we make of this, then? Is Castellanos sitting on a done-deal from a month ago, patiently waiting out the Cubs moving other money?
… no. With apologies to Murphy, that isn’t happening.
Is it possible that a slightly lesser version of that has happened? Like, that the Cubs spoke with Castellanos and/or his reps and indicated that they do want him back, they they are into making an offer, but they aren’t in a position to do it now, pending other financial considerations? Well, yeah! Not only is that “possible,” I think it’s highly likely that’s exactly what has happened. Keep in mind, the mutual interest in a reunion has been pretty nakedly transparent from the last week of the season. In a world where the positional fit made sense, and where the contract was reasonable, the Cubs would be all over re-signing Castellanos. They’ve probably had conversations like that – internally and externally – and it’s totally possible that what Murphy is reporting is some version of that conversation, with a little extra talk-radio flair.
So, the end result is more or less what it’s always been with Castellanos: if he can get a huge deal sooner rather than later, he’ll jump on it, as he should. But if he lingers on the market for a while – which was always possible because of the questions about his defense – then the Cubs might hang around to have some more chats, depending on how the rest of the offseason shakes out. You never know when a surprising deal might become available, or when the positional fit becomes less of a concern relative to the price. The Cubs genuinely do like how Castellanos’s bat, age, and energy fit with this team. It’s just that when you stack that against the other considerations – as much as we might hate it – there isn’t a deal to be had at this moment.