Cubs

Sveum, Castro have closed-door meeting

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Sveum, Castro have closed-door meeting

Starlin Castro is in the Cubs lineup for Saturdays game against the Reds one day after he drew manager Dale Sveums ire for a baserunning blunder.
Sveum said after Fridays five-error loss to the Reds that he was unsure if Castro would play Saturday, and he said he would talk to the 22-year-old shortstop.
He had a long talk with Castro on Saturday, and the Cubs' shortstop is batting fifth against Reds starter Bronson Arroyo.
I talked to him for quite a while today, but nothing that I really want to share with anybody, Sveum said. Its more of a closed-doors meeting and it went well. He was completely, basically, I dont know if remorseful is the right word, but he knew he made a big mistake in a certain part of the game, five runs down. You have to be a little more prepared for that situation and do a little better job there, so it went good.
With the Cubs trailing by five runs in the sixth inning Friday, Castro led off with a single and attempted to steal second. On Josh Vitters single to right field. Castro didnt watch the ball and slowed down as he was decoyed by second baseman Brandon Phillips, who put up his glove as if he was going to receive a throw. Castro realized the ball was in play and tried to advance to third, where the Reds threw him out.
Though Castro is just 22 years old, hes in his third major-league season, and he told Sveum there was no excuse for his mistake.
I dont treat him any different than anybody else, Sveum said. He just happens to be a big focal point of the team because he is our shortstop and the shortstop that will be here for a long time.
The guys made leaps and bounds defensively and did a good job as far as concentration for most of the time. A lot of times, myself included as well as the media, blows him up as much as anybody else. Some other people have made some pretty bad mistakes too, but it doesnt get blown up as much either.
Sveum said he no longer sees consistent mental lapses from Castro.
Hes still an elite shortstop in the big leagues, Sveum said. Some people might have less errors, but a lot of people havent been able to do the things he can do at shortstop either.
Meanwhile, outfielder Brett Jackson is out of the Cubs lineup after he was involved in a collision in the eighth inning of Fridays game.
He felt like he got hit by a truck more than anything, Sveum said. More of a whiplash type of effect with that collision in center field.
Before Saturdays game, the Cubs also made roster moves, activating right-handed pitcher Lendy Castillo from the 15-day disabled list and optioning left-handed pitcher Scott Maine to Triple-A Iowa. Castillo was 0-1 with a 7.04 ERA in seven games with the Cubs before he went on the disabled list with a left groin strain. Maine was 1-1 with a 4.79 ERA in 21 games with the Cubs.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Manny Machado’s value and other Cubs offseason wish list items

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Manny Machado’s value and other Cubs offseason wish list items

Did Manny Machado’s value take a hit at all after he openly admitted hustling isn’t his “cup of tea”? Our Cubs team (David Kaplan, Kelly Crull, Tony Andracki, Jeff Nelson) debate that, plus the potential fit of Machado or Bryce Harper for the 2019 Cubs and beyond.

The crew also runs down the top items on the Cubs’ offseason wish list – ranging from bullpen help to infield depth to a set leadoff hitter – in what may be the most impactful winter in Theo Epstein’s tenure in Chicago.

Listen to the podcast here or via the embedded player below:

The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason

The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason

There are plenty of intriguing Cubs storylines to monitor this offseason from their potential pursuit of the big free agents to any other changes that may come to the coaching staff or roster after a disappointing finish to the 2018 campaign.

But there's one question simmering under the radar in Cubs circles when it comes to this winter: How will the team solve the shortstop conundrum?

Just a few years ago, the Cubs had "too many" shortstops. Now, there are several different factors at play here that makes it a convoluted mess.

First: What will the Cubs do with Addison Russell? The embattled shortstop is in the midst of a suspension for domestic violence that will keep him off an MLB diamond for at least the first month of 2019.

Has Russell already played his last game with the Cubs? Will they trade him or send him packing in any other fashion this winter?

Theo Epstein mentioned several times he felt the organization needs to show support to the victim in the matter (Russell's ex-wife, Melisa) but also support for Russell. Does that mean they would keep him a part of the team at least through the early part of 2019?

Either way, Russell's days in Chicago are numbered and his play on the field took another big step back in 2018 as he fought through a hand injury and experienced a major dip in power. With his performance on the field and the off-field issues, it will be hard to justify a contract worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million in his second year of arbitration (prorated, with a month's worth of pay taken out for the suspension).

Even if Russell is on the roster in 2019, Javy Baez is unquestionably the shortstop for at least the first month while Russell is on suspension. 

But what about beyond Baez if the Cubs want to give him a breather or disaster strikes and he's forced to miss time with an injury?

At the moment, there's nothing but question marks on the current Cubs shortstop depth chart throughout the entire organization and they're certainly going to need other options at the most important defensive position (outside of pitcher/catcher). 

There's David Bote, who subbed in for Baez at short once in September when Baez needed a break and Russell was on the disabled list. But while Bote's defense at third base and second base has opened eyes around the Cubs, he has only played 45 games at short across seven minor-league seasons, including 15 games in 2018. There's also the offensive question marks with the rookie, who hit just .176 with a .559 OPS and 40 strikeouts in 108 at-bats after that epic ultimate grand slam on Aug. 12.

The Cubs' other current shortstop options include Mike Freeman (a 31-year-old career minor-leaguer), Ben Zobrist (who will be 38 in 2019 and has played all of 13 innings at shortstop since 2014), Ryan Court (a 30-year-old career minor leaguer) and Chesny Young (a 26-year-old minor-leaguer who has posted a .616 OPS in 201 Triple-A games).

Maybe Joe Maddon would actually deploy Kris Bryant at shortstop in case of emergency like a Baez injury ("necessity is the mother of invention," as Maddon loves to say), but that seems a lot more like a fun talking point than a legit option at this current juncture.

So even if Russell sticks around, there's no way the Cubs can go into the first month of the season with just Baez and Bote as the only shortstop options on a team that with World Series or bust expectations.

The Cubs will need to acquire some shortstop depth this winter in some capacity, whether it's adding to the Triple-A Iowa roster or getting a veteran who can also back up other positions. Right now, the free agent pool of potential shortstops is pretty slim beyond Manny Machado.

Epstein always says he and his front office look to try to mitigate risk and analyze where things could go wrong to sink the Cubs' season and through that lense, shortstop is suddenly right up there behind adding more bullpen help this winter.