Cubs

What does the future hold for Starlin Castro with Cubs?

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What does the future hold for Starlin Castro with Cubs?

"The game reveals it for you."

Joe Maddon was discussing the X's and O's of how he can work in defensive replacements with his new offensive-minded starting lineup, but that line can also apply to Starlin Castro's future with the Cubs. The game reveals it for you.

[RELATED - Starlin Castro refuses to put his head down after benching]

Nobody knows what the future holds for the Cubs or Castro, but it will all eventually work itself out. Right now, the team insists the recent benching doesn't change the 25-year-old's status with the franchise.

"No, not at all," Cubs president Theo Epstein said Friday. "He's a big part of what we have going here. A 25-year-old, three-time All-Star who has been the shortstop on a playoff-worthy team (as of right now).

"Certainly, we think he'll play better baseball going forward than he has the last four months and a week."

Despite that impressive resume and a relatively reasonable contract that keeps him under club control through the 2020 season, Castro has found himself in trade rumors, especially before the non-waiver deadline last month.

With Addison Russell's emergence at age 21, Castro needed a solid season to maintain his hold on the shortstop position, but instead carries a .575 OPS, the worst mark among all big-league shortstops.

[RELATED - Starlin Castro the odd man out of Joe Maddon's lineup]

Castro's struggles have left the Cubs baffled.

"Yeah, of course [it's puzzling]," Epstein said. "A 25-year-old, for as talented as he is, usually gets better and puts up good seasons.

"He's shown some streakiness in his career. Even within the course of a good season, he'll have a couple months where he's not performing well and then he'll get really hot. And we've benefitted from that hot streak.

"But it's just a year that he hasn't really gotten comfortable at the plate for whatever reason. I think maybe this will help him - a little bit of time off, a little bit different look out there on the field and maybe Joe can put him in a position to find it and get hot."

The Cubs initially moved Russell to second base before his promotion to the big leagues, but with Castro's struggles, the rookie is back at his natural position, where he's always envisioned himself playing.

"I've been playing [shortstop] ever since I was a little kid and all my dreams are coming true," Russell said. "That's great and all, but I just want to help out the team now that I'm in the big leagues. Wherever they need me, I'm going to try to get the job done."

Castro said nobody from the Cubs has talked to him yet about possibly switching positions, but Maddon said they have started internal discussions about different possibilities.

Right now, the Cubs just want Castro to get back to the player he is capable of being instead of trying to add more to his plate.

"Maybe a little break, a little rebooting can help," Maddon said. "I really like this kid a lot and I want to see it work out for him and for us."

Epstein thinks moving Coghlan to the infield could be a blessing in disguise for the Cubs, freeing Maddon up to give the rookies a day off here or there and keep them fresh for the stretch run.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

"It's going to finally allow Joe to get a little bit more rest for the [Kris] Bryants and Russells of the world, guys who have never played a six-month season before," Epstein said.

"And then for Starlin, too. It's going to give him days off that will hopefully allow him to find it."

Castro said he is trying not to focus on the future and stay positive, but also admitted he wouldn't mind having a conversation with Epstein's front office if there was the possibility of a position or role change.

"Yeah, if I have a chance to talk to them, I will," Castro said. "Whatever they can do, they know why they do it and they know what is best for me and the other players.

"Whatever decision they make, I'm in."

Javy Baez should be the frontrunner for NL MVP heading into the All-Star Break

Javy Baez should be the frontrunner for NL MVP heading into the All-Star Break

If the season ended today, Javy Baez may be your National League MVP.

Of course, the season isn't ending today, only the first half of the 2018 campaign is.

He flashed his skills again over the weekend — scoring the game-winning run Friday, posting a 5-RBI game Saturday and then drove in the Cubs' first run in their 7-4 victory Sunday to close out a sweep of the Padres.

Entering the All-Star Break, Baez should be the frontrunner for Most Valuable Player.

For starters, he's the best player on the best team in the league.

Thanks to a recent hot surge by the Cubs and an ugly weekend for the Brewers (who have lost 6 straight), Baez and Co. will go into the break with the best record in the NL. 

Baez, meanwhile, leads the Cubs in WAR and nearly every offensive category — OPS, slugging percentage, homers, RBI, runs scored, doubles, triples, total bases, stolen bases and hits.

And that's not even saying anything about his glovework at any position on the infield or dynamic baserunning.

He's on pace to become the first Cubs player to drive in 125 runs since Sammy Sosa in 2001.

Baez also is on track for a 30-30 season — something only Sosa accomplished in a Cubs uniform in 1993 and 1995. 

El Mago will enjoy his week in the Home Run Derby and as the NL's starting second baseman in the All-Star Game, but those shouldn't be the end of his accolades this year if he can find a way to keep this pace up in the second half.

What other NL candidate would be a better choice for the MVP right now?

Baez is tied for the league lead in RBI. Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar is just behind Baez with 70 RBI, but he also has 70 fewer at-bats than the Cubs star due to a platoon to begin the year. 

Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett are also having great years, but the Reds are nowhere close to a playoff spot. 

Nolan Arenado, Freddie Freeman and Paul Goldschmidt are also having very good seasons on teams that are currently in the playoff hunt, but how do you deny the best player on the league's best team?

After all, where would the Cubs be without Baez this season? 

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have battled through injuries and bouts of ineffectiveness, the pitching staff has had all kinds of consistency/health woes and Willson Contreras has yet to find his power stroke at the plate.

At the very least, "El Mago" has been the most important player on the North Side of Chicago during the first 3.5 months of 2018.

Nico Hoerner makes great catch in first game with South Bend

Nico Hoerner makes great catch in first game with South Bend

Cubs first-round pick Nico Hoerner made his debut with the Class-A South Bend Cubs, and he did not disappoint.

The 23-year old shortstop showed off impressive hops during an acrobatic grab in the topf of the second inning in his first game with the South Bend Cubs. Hoerner will surely be an exciting defensive prospect with ability like this.

As far as offense goes, through four at-bats at South Bend, Hoerner is batting .500, and this comes after he hit .318 with a home run and two RBI through seven games with the Eugene Emeralds, the Cubs Class A short-season affiliate.

Here is to hoping we continue to see big-time plays from Hoerner.