Cubs

Traded from Cubs, Starlin Castro starts over with Yankees

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Traded from Cubs, Starlin Castro starts over with Yankees

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Even through all the ups and downs in Chicago, Starlin Castro still dreamed about being on the Cubs team that finally won it all.

Castro got closer than anyone predicted this year, watching the big crowds at Wrigley Field come alive again and clap along to his walk-up song, “Ando En La Versace,” unscripted moments that weren’t focus-group-tested on season-ticket holders.

But Castro won’t be around to see the rebuild all the way through, traded to the New York Yankees on Tuesday for pitcher Adam Warren and a player to be named later (reportedly infielder Brendan Ryan), the trigger the Cubs needed to sign super-utility guy Ben Zobrist to a four-year, $56 million contract.

The Yankees aren’t the kings of the winter meetings anymore, sitting out the bidding wars for big-name free agents and trying to build a deeper roster with more flexibility and athleticism while waiting out some huge contracts.

[MORE CUBS: Domino effect: Cubs sign Ben Zobrist for $56 million and trade Starlin Castro to Yankees]

For Cubs fans, it feels like Castro has been around forever, but he is still only 25 years old, a three-time All-Star and a versatile defender with 991 career hits already on his resume.

“We want to get younger,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said inside the Opryland bubble. “We want to obviously improve in areas of need with younger, controllable pieces that we believe are performers. And I think he checks all those boxes.”

The Yankees needed up-the-middle options, could absorb the $38 million Castro is guaranteed across the next four years and kept an open mind about a player with some perception issues. Jim Hendry — the former Cubs general manager who promoted Castro from Double-A Tennessee to the big leagues in 2010 — is a special assistant to Cashman.

Castro had occasional mental lapses and made some headlines with a few off-the-field incidents, but he will ultimately be remembered for the way he handled Addison Russell taking over at shortstop in August. Castro accepted his new role at second base, got hot again and helped the Cubs win 97 games and two playoff rounds.

“I don’t think any factor of change of scenery is necessary,” Cashman said. “He proved what he could do with the position switch there. I thought he was one of the big reasons they really propelled into the playoffs the way they did.

“He was flying with his performance once he got over to second base (and in a) pressure situation had a good postseason. So I don’t think he needs a change of scenery at all. Just let him settle in and be an everyday second baseman.”

[SHOP CUBS: Get your Cubs gear right here]

The Cubs tried to move Castro before the July 31 trade deadline and watched him pass through waivers in August, when the difficult decision might have been to simply dump the contract if another team claimed him.

But a late-season surge convinced the Cubs that they wouldn’t just give Castro away. The Cubs made another pitch to the Yankees at the beginning of the offseason, and the talks started up again when team president Theo Epstein got a phone call here in Nashville.

Castro signed with the organization nine years ago, as a teenager out of the Dominican Republic, and became the lightning rod as the Cubs trudged through five fifth-place seasons.

Castro almost always stood at his locker answering questions and taking the heat, burning to be in the lineup and play every day, something he learned from another old Yankee, Alfonso Soriano, who absorbed those lessons from Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Bernie Williams in New York.

Now Castro starts the rest of his baseball life at Yankee Stadium, and that might be the best thing for him.

“He really grew up in this organization,” Epstein said. “He went through a lot here, made tremendous positive contributions to help get us to where we are. So it’s certainly a bittersweet feeling with some sadness that we see him go. I wish him nothing but the best for him and his family in New York and wearing the pinstripes, where I believe he’ll thrive.”

Forget 2015, the Brewers are more like 2016 Cubs

Forget 2015, the Brewers are more like 2016 Cubs

With the Milwaukee Brewers about to kick off the NLCS, many Cubs fans and pundits have taken to comparing them to the 2015 Cubs.

At first glance, it's easy to see why — they're in the playoffs for the first time as something of an underdog and "surprise" team — but that's not the recent Cubs squad we should be comparing the 2018 Brewers to.

This Milwaukee team is a lot more like the 2016 Cubs.

Here's why:

1. They're not a surprise.

Nobody expected the 2015 Cubs to win 97 games and wind up in the NLCS. They were expected to compete very soon, but everything went right in a red-hot August, they rode Jake Arrieta's right arm to the NLDS and then toppled the Cardinals to get to the LCS, where they ran into the brick wall that was Matt Harvey and and the Mets pitching staff.

The 2018 Brewers are not — and should not be — a surprise. Anybody who was caught off guard by this team being so good hasn't been paying much attention. The Brewers were leading the NL Central in 2017 for much of the year before a late-season fade that coincided with the Cubs' late-season surge.

This Milwaukee squad was always supposed to be one of the top teams in the NL in 2018 and they really hit their groove in September to chase down the Cubs. Still, it took a Game 163 to force a changing of the guard atop the division.

2. They greatly improved expectations with a big free-agent OF signing over the winter.

The Cubs had Jason Heyward in between 2015 and '16. The Brewers had Lorenzo Cain.

Cain has provided quite a bit more offense in the first season of his 5-year, $80 million contract but both Cain and Heyward provided leadership in the clubhouse and elite defense in the outfield in the first years with their new teams.

3. The Brewers have the NL MVP.

This one's an easy comparison to make, though Cubs fans will hate it.

Christian Yelich is this season's NL MVP. Sorry, Javy Baez fans. "El Mago" had a great season, but it's impossible to give the award to anybody but Yelich.

Yelich winning the league's most coveted accolade would be another perfect tie-in to the 2016 Cubs, who had Kris Bryant take home NL MVP.

4. They have a dominant LHP out of the bullpen.

Josh Hader has been doing his best Aroldis Chapman impression in 2018 as an absolutely dominant southpaw out of the bullpen. Unlike Chapman, Hader's spent all season with the Brewers, but like Chapman in '16, Hader will be leaned on heavily for multiple innings throughout the rest of the playoffs.

5. They picked up some valuable in-season assets.

The 2016 Cubs dealt for Chapman, but they also traded for reliever Joe Smith and called up Willson Contreras in the middle of the year, who provided a spark for the offense.

The 2018 Brewers have acquired plenty of valuable assets along the way this season from Mike Moustakas to Jonathan Schoop to Erik Kratz (more on him later) to Gio Gonzalez. But one of their most important additions (especially in October) was the promotion of top prospect Corbin Burnes, a flame-throwing right-hander who posted a 2.61 ERA in 30 regular-season games and allowed only 1 hit in 4 shutout innings in the DS.

6. They're on a mission with a chip on their shoulder.

The 2015 Cubs had a little bit of a chip on their shoulder as they attempted to take down the divisional powerhouse that was the St. Louis Cardinals. But again, they were a surprise contender - even within that clubhouse (especially early in 2015). But after falling short in the NLCS, the Cubs retooled over the winter and came back with one goal in mind - to win the World Series.

It was a goal they accomplished. We'll see if the Brewers will be able to do the same, but they certainly came to play in 2018 with a chip on their shoulder and the ultimate goal of winning the final MLB game of the year.

The Brewers didn't lead the division from Day 1 and weren't able to coast into October, but they still wound up with homefield advantage throughout the NL playoffs.

7. They have journeyman catcher who is winning over fans' hearts.

This is a fun one.

The 2016 Cubs had David "Grandpa" Rossy who still elicts deafening cheers whenever he's shown on the giant video board at Wrigley Field. The 2018 Brewers have Kratz, who has become a fan favorite recently and was mic'd up for the final out of the NLDS.

Ross was 39 when he helped lead the Cubs to the 2016 World Series and Chicago was his eighth stop (seventh different team) along his MLB journey. Kratz is 38 and on his ninth stop (seventh different team) along his MLB journey.

In fact, Ross and Kratz are so intertwined, they've already been compared to each other by MLB.com.

But the major difference is Kratz has zero postseason playing experience until a week ago. Will he be able to ride off into the sunset with a championship ring on his finger the way Ross did?

We'll have an answer to that over the next few weeks in the final chapter of the Brewers' 2018 season, though Cubs fans surely wouldn't be too happy to see their division rivals celebrating with a World Series parade just 90 minutes north of Wrigley Field.

Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde interviewed for Rangers' manager opening

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USA TODAY

Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde interviewed for Rangers' manager opening

The Cubs just lost one coach with hitting coach Chili Davis getting fired. Another opening on Joe Maddon's coaching staff could also open up.

According to report from MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, bench coach Brandon Hyde interviewed with the Rangers on Thursday.

Rangers farm director Jayce Tingler was the first candidate the club interviewed, but Hyde and Astros bench coach Joe Espada were also interviewed.

The 45-year-old Hyde has been with the Cubs since 2014. He was a bench coach in 2014 under Rick Renteria before moving to first base coach from 2015-17. This past season he moved back to his original role as bench coach.

He played four seasons in the minors for the White Sox.

The Rangers job opened up when Jeff Banister was fired on Sept. 21. Banister won AL Manager of the Year in 2015 and guided the Rangers to back-to-back playoff appearances in 2015 and 2016, but couldn't get out of the ALDS either year. A 78-84 season in 2017 was followed by an even worse 2018, which led to his firing late this season.