As Cubs look for deals, Joe Maddon tells Starlin Castro: You’re not getting traded


As Cubs look for deals, Joe Maddon tells Starlin Castro: You’re not getting traded

Joe Maddon met with Starlin Castro late Tuesday night in the manager’s office, trying to clear the air and reassure the All-Star shortstop that he still has a future with the Cubs.

Maddon said he told Castro: “Listen, you’re not getting traded. Just relax and play. Don’t worry about this stuff.”       

With rumors flying all over Twitter before Friday’s non-waiver deadline, Maddon explained why he doubled-switched Castro out of Tuesday’s 7-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies – primarily to keep Chris Coghlan’s bat in the game – and gave the heads-up it would simply be a normal day off on Wednesday at Wrigley Field.

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The Cubs have tried to gauge the market for Castro and it’s obvious they need to infuse the organization with more pitching. But Castro’s in the middle of an offensive spiral (.576 OPS), doesn’t have a reputation as a great defender and still gets almost $40 million guaranteed across the next four seasons.

It doesn’t sound like Theo Epstein’s baseball operations department is on the verge of a blockbuster deal that would involve Castro going to the San Diego Padres or Philadelphia Phillies or some mystery team.

Castro still requested the meeting with Maddon after finding out he would not be in Wednesday’s lineup against Colorado.

“I want to be here,” Castro said. “I want to stay here.”

Castro – who’s played for five different managers during his first six seasons in the big leagues – felt the speculation getting in his head and appreciated the message from Maddon: “He told me: ‘Hey, relax, we want you here. You’re not going (anywhere).’”

Castro also admitted he wasn’t exactly sure if Maddon meant for the moment – or if he’s really safe through the deadline.     

“I don’t know,” Castro said. “I’ll be honest, I don’t know. If on Friday something happens…”

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Still, Castro said he wasn’t bothered by the idea of Cubs executives discussing his name in trade talks.

“No,” Castro said more than once. “Those guys have the last decision. I can’t do anything about it. Just try to come in here every day to work and do my best.”

The Cubs hoped Castro would raise his game after playing on fifth-place teams for five straight years. Even after a strong April, he’s still hitting only .237, or 47 points below his career average heading into this season. He’s also committed 17 errors and drifted at times on the field, reopening those questions about his focus.

“He’s been all over the map,” Maddon said. “This kid’s been a Cub. He’s really made his mark here. He’s been an All-Star here. He’s got a thousand hits here, almost.

“He’s 25. Again, I think people fail to remember that he’s really young, so to process this whole thing is not easy sometimes. We think it is, but it’s not if you’re caught up in the moment.

“Cut him a little slack there – and I do. We talk. I’ve had great conversations. I really like this kid a lot – not a little bit. I think he’s outstanding.”

With the Bears opening training camp in Bourbonnais, Maddon made Castro sound like another lightning rod in Chicago sports: Jay Cutler.

“When you’ve had that many offensive coordinators and head coaches for so many years, quarterbacks oftentimes become confused,” Maddon said. “It’s the same thing with young shortstops.”

Castro trusts Maddon and respects the coaching staff: “We got a great group. Everybody’s been unbelievable.” Castro didn’t sound ready for a change of scenery that might ultimately help reboot his career.

“The season’s going on,” Castro said, “I don’t even think about this kind of stuff.”

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans]

Of course, these are fluid situations and Castro doesn’t have a no-trade clause. But Maddon understands he’s only as good as his word and uses the media to send messages to the clubhouse.

Plus, this would be selling at an absolute low point for a front office that likes to squeeze maximum value out of deals – and recognizes Castro’s work ethic and coachable nature, having his back through a series of off-the-field incidents.

“I’ve taken the time to really develop a relationship with him since spring training,” Maddon said. “When I speak to him, it’s eyeball to eyeball. I think he understands what I’m saying to him is very sincere.

“I’m totally supporting him and it’s just not working for him right now. I told him: ‘You’re really grinding it a little bit too hard. You need to back off just a little bit.’

“When you get the prodigy that really gets it younger – beautiful. But 26, 27, 28 – for me – in this industry is when players really start understanding the whole scope of what’s going on out there.”

And by now, Castro definitely knows this is a business.

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

MESA, Ariz. — “That’s last year, don’t want to talk about that.”

In other words, Addison Russell is so over 2017.

The Cubs shortstop went through a lot last year. He dealt with injuries that affected his foot and shoulder. He had a well-documented off-the-field issue involving an accusation of domestic abuse, which sparked an investigation by Major League Baseball. And then came the trade speculation.

The hot stove season rarely leaves any player completely out of online trade discussion. But after Theo Epstein admitted there was a possibility the Cubs could trade away one or more young position players to bolster the starting rotation, well, Russell’s name came up.

And he saw it.

“There was a lot of trade talk,” Russell said Saturday. “My initial thoughts were, I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table here. It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform, I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure. But there was some talk out there. If I got traded, then I got traded, but that’s not the case.”

No, it’s not, as the Cubs solved those pitching questions with free-agent spending, bringing in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to replace the departed Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. It means Russell, along with oft-discussed names like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Javy Baez, are all still Cubs.

While the outside world might have expected one of those guys to be moved in some sort of blockbuster trade for Chris Archer or some other All-Star arm, the Cubs’ young core remains intact, another reason why they’re as much a favorite to win the World Series as any team out there.

“I’m really not surprised. The core is still here. Who would want to break that up? It’s a beautiful thing,” Russell said. “Javy and I in the middle. Schwarber, sometimes playing catcher but mainly outfield. And then (Kris Bryant) over there in the hot corner, and of course (Anthony) Rizzo at first. You’ve got a Gold Glover in right field (Jason Heyward). It’s really hard to break that up.

“When you do break that down on paper, we’ve got a lineup that could stack up with the best.”

This winter has been about moving on for Russell, who said he’s spent months working to strengthen his foot and shoulder after they limited him to 110 games last season, the fewest he played in his first three big league campaigns.

And so for Russell, the formula for returning to his 2016 levels of offensive aptitude isn’t a difficult one: stay on the field.

“Especially with the injuries, I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent last year than I displayed,” Russell said. “So going into this year, it’s mainly just keeping a good mental — just staying level headed. And also staying healthy and producing and being out there on the field.

“Next step for me, really just staying out there on the field. I really want to see what I can do as far as helping the team if I can stay healthy for a full season. I think if I just stay out there on the field, I’m going to produce.”

While the decrease in being on the field meant lower numbers from a “counting” standpoint — the drop from 21 homers in 2016 to 12 last year, the drop from 95 RBIs to 43 can in part be attributed to the lower number of games — certain rate stats looked different, too. His on-base percentage dropped from .321 in 2016 to .304 last year.

Russell also struggled during the postseason, picking up just six hits in 36 plate appearances in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out 13 times in 10 postseason games.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. That World Series hangover was team-wide throughout the first half of the season. And even though the Cubs scored 824 runs during the regular season, the second most in the National League and the fourth most in baseball, plenty of guys had their offensive struggles: Schwarber, Heyward and Ben Zobrist, to name a few.

“You can’t take anything for granted. So whenever you win a World Series or you do something good, you just have to live in the moment,” Russell said. “It was a tough season last year because we were coming off winning the World Series and the World Series hangover and all that. This year, we had a couple months off, a couple extra weeks off, and I think a lot of guys took advantage of that. I know I did. And now that we’re here in spring training, we’re going to get back at it.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans


Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

Jon Lester has arrived at Cubs camp, and he’s pleased with the new-look rotation full of potential aces. Kelly Crull and Vinnie Duber discuss the 5-man unit, and where Mike Montgomery fits into the Cubs’ plans.

Plus, Kelly and Vinnie talk Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber, along with the continuing free agent stalemate surrounding Jake Arrieta.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: