Cubs

Cubs open to locking up Garza with extension

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Cubs open to locking up Garza with extension

MESA, Ariz. The Cubs insist that all the Matt Garza speculation has been driven by the media, that its not a reflection of a team actively shopping its best pitcher.

Its just that Theo Epstein is looking at a five- to 10-year window to build an annual contender, and Garza is only under club control for the next two seasons. Short-term assets wont do much for this front office.

Garzas name has been all over the trade rumors, but hes used to that by now after being shipped from Minnesota to Tampa Bay to Chicago, which he liked enough to make his offseason home.

Garza, 28, recently avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, 9.5 million deal. Soon general manager Jed Hoyer expects to begin talking about a possible extension with Garzas agent, Nez Balelo of CAA Sports.

We focused really hard on getting the one-year number done a few weeks ago, Hoyer said Saturday. We didnt have any kind of long-term discussions before that. But certainly there was some dialogue about possibly having some long-term discussions at some point, maybe this spring.

Thats a long way of saying theres mutual interest in an extension at the right price.

Garzas reference point figures to be John Danks, who agreed to a five-year, 65 million extension with the White Sox this winter. The left-hander, who will turn 27 in April, will get 8 million this season, then 14.25 million annually through 2016.

The circumstances arent identical, but the career profiles for Garza (52-54, 3.83 ERA, 1.303 WHIP, 923.1 innings) and Danks (54-56, 4.03 ERA, 1.304 WHIP, 917.2 innings) match up well.

Garza has said that he doesnt want to talk about his contract situation and wont make demands through the media. But the Cubs are willing to listen.

When we do it, well keep it quiet, Hoyer said, and hopefully their side will, too, because I think contracts are better negotiated that way. But I think we will probably sit down and talk. Weve said many times hes the kind of guy we need. We need more Matt Garzas, not less. We need a rotation full of those guys. So if we can work something out, that would be wonderful.

Cubs trade rumors: Nick Castellanos drawing interest and could be the perfect fit

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USA TODAY

Cubs trade rumors: Nick Castellanos drawing interest and could be the perfect fit

Ever since infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist hit the restricted list for personal reasons on May 8, one of the biggest talking points around the Cubs has been the team’s need for a steady, veteran bat.

Enter Tigers outfielder Nick Castellanos.

Sunday, Chris McCosky of The Detroit News reported that the Cubs have emerged as a "serious suitor" for Castellanos, citing a source. 

McCosky’s report follows that of MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, who reported that the Cubs had a scout in attendance at Friday’s Tigers-Blue Jays game in Detroit.

It’s currently unclear what a trade package for Castellanos and. 27, would look like, but his fit with the team is obvious. In Castellanos, the Cubs would acquire a veteran outfield bat, one that hits extremely well against left-handed pitching.

Castellanos, who is a free agent after this season, has mainly hit second and third for the Tigers and led the team with 23 home runs in 2018. He holds a .280/.339/.467 slashline, with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs this season. Those numbers are even better against left-handers — .377/.451/.639 — albeit in a small sample size of 61 at-bats. However, in his 6+ MLB seasons, he's hitting .302 with an .871 OPS against left-handed pitching. 

The Cubs have struggled against left-handed pitching in 2019, ranking 23rd in average (.243) and 28th in hits with 164. Castellanos would rank first among qualified Cubs hitters vs. left-handers in average and OBP and only trail Javier Baez’s .776 in slugging percentage.

While it's true that Castellanos hits left-handed pitching well, he'd instantly become an everyday player in the Cubs outfield. Thus, the Cubs depth chart would be hit with several ripple effects.

Albert Almora Jr.'s  playing time against right-handed starting pitching would be affected. Almora held a .282/.315/.369 slashline against right-handed pitching in 2018, but those numbers currently sit at .255/.291/.427.

Almora's numbers against lefites (.210/.247/.296) aren't better, but his 2018 slashline there (.295/.340/.402) leaves room for hope. Also, Kyle Schwarber is only hitting .224 against lefties, so adding Castellanos would likely mean Almora starts less against righties and Schwarber less against lefties. Almora does provide Gold Glove caliber defense, so the Cubs may be more inclined to let him work through his struggles at the plate.

Similarly, David Bote's playing time could also be affected by Castellanos. Without the latter, the Cubs have more of a need to play Kris Bryant in the outfield, meaning third base is open for Bote to play. Adding Castellanos might mean Bryant playing more third base and less outfield, so Bote would have to crack the starting lineup at second base, more likely than not. The same goes for Robel Garcia, though his bat is making it hard to keep him out of the starting lineup right now.

Between Almora and Schwarber's numbers and Zobrist’s absence, the Cubs have a glaring need for more outfield offense. Adding Castellanos could be exactly what the doctor ordered for the Cubs offensively.

Update: Our David Kaplan added that the Cubs have also had discussions for Tigers closer Shane Greene.

Greene, 30, is arbitration eligible this offseason. The right-hander has converted 22 of his 25 save chances this season and has 40 strikeouts compared to 11 walks. However, his 3.54 FIP is a far cry from his 1.25 ERA, and the overriding thought has been that the Cubs would seek left-handed relief help rather than right-handed.

Greene entered Sunday with a lower ERA against lefties (0.64) than righties (1.29), though lefties are hitting .222 against him compared to .097 by righties. If the Cubs were to acquire him, he obviously wouldn't slot into the Cubs closer role, as Craig Kimbrel has the position locked down. As Kaplan noted, the cost to get both Castellanos and Greene would be steep, especially with the latter being a top relief arm on the trade market.

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Maddon on Addison Russell: 'We gotta make sure the mental mistakes are curbed'

Maddon on Addison Russell: 'We gotta make sure the mental mistakes are curbed'

Addison Russell had a tough day at the ballpark Saturday.

He was thrown out twice on the basepaths, lost a popup in the sun, let another popup drop behind him in an apparent miscommunication with Albert Almora Jr. and somehow threw his bat into the Cubs dugout in the follow-through of a swing — again. 

Joe Maddon wasn't upset about the issues on the popups, but it was the baserunning issues and mental mistakes that really irked the Cubs manager.

After the game Saturday — a 6-5 Cubs win — Maddon laid it out simply:

"He’s gotta straighten some things out," Maddon said. "He has to. There’s no question. I’m not going to stand here — he’s got to, we’ve talked about his baserunning in the past. 

"… The baserunning, there’s some things there — we’re making too many outs on the bases and we’re missing things on the bases that we can’t to be an elite team."

Russell wasn't in the lineup for Sunday's game with Robel Garcia taking over at second base and before the contest, Maddon doubled down on the baseruninng comments.

"Yesterday was just a tough day and it wasn't even the popups — I don't care because the sun's tough and the wind's tough and it's a thousand degrees," Maddon said. "That's not it. There were other components that we need to make sure he gets back on top of his game with.

"His defense, for me, is still among the best. It's still among the best. He had a tough day. The physical mistakes, I never worry about them. We just gotta make sure the mental mistakes are curbed."

Since returning from suspension in May of this season, Russell rates positively as a defender and has only been charged with two errors. But he's made several other mental mistakes in the field, not to mention the baserunning gaffes that the rest of the Cubs team has seemingly moved past after struggling as a whole in that regard for a few weeks leading into the All-Star Break.

The Cubs are also waiting for Russell to get going offensively.

In Friday's series opener against the Padres, Maddon liked the way Russell was trending against left-handed pitching — an issue for the Cubs lineup in general this year — and put the embattled second baseman in the 5-spot in the order behind Anthony Rizzo. The Cubs pulled off another victory that day and Russell scored the game-winning run, but he also struck out three times.

On the year, the 25-year-old is hitting .243 with a .730 OPS, 6 homers and 16 RBI in 53 games.