What does the future hold for Starlin Castro with Cubs?


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."

Joe Girardi steps down as manager for Olympic qualifying team to pursue MLB openings

Joe Girardi steps down as manager for Olympic qualifying team to pursue MLB openings

Joe Girardi’s name has come up for just about every managerial opening in Major League Baseball and it sounds like he is all in on pursuing that opportunity.

Girardi was set to manage USA Baseball’s Olympic qualifying team. He was named the manager of Team USA in August. His first tournament was going to be the upcoming Premier12 tournament, which is the first chance to qualify for the Olympics. Camp was set to begin on Oct. 21 and the U.S.’s first game is Nov. 2.

Instead, Girardi has stepped down. USA Baseball broke the news with a press release that announced Scott Brosius, a former teammate of Girardi’s on the Yankees, will take over.

The reason is the interesting part. He stepped down “as he pursues open managerial opportunities in Major League Baseball.”

At the very least, it sounds like Girardi is interested in at least one of the openings in MLB. He interviewed with the Cubs last week so this won't quell any speculation that he would come back to the North Side as a manager.

David Ross may still be the odds on favorite to fill the Cubs’ vacancy, but Girardi’s apparent interest in rejoining the ranks of MLB managers is certainly noteworthy. One would think if Girardi wants to get back into managing in MLB, at this indicates, he will get a job. Now the question is where he will land.

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Joe Maddon already has a new job, signs on with Angels

Joe Maddon already has a new job, signs on with Angels

Barring a Cubs-Angels World Series, the Wrigley Field faithful might not have much of an opportunity to welcome Joe Maddon back to The Friendly Confines.

It didn't take long for Maddon to find a job, as he reportedly agreed this week to join the Los Angeles Angels as their next manager. This was a widely speculated move after the Angels let go of manager Brad Ausmus just one year into a three-year contract immediately after the Cubs announced they were parting ways with Maddon. 

According to ESPN's Jesse Rogers, Maddon's deal will likely be for three years at $4-5 million a season:

Maddon came up as a coach in the Angels system, referencing his three decades there often during the course of his five years in Chicago.

Once the Cubs got rid of Maddon, it was obvious he would have plenty of suitors, as just about any team with a managerial vacancy would be interested in the future Hall of Famer. But instead of going to an up-and-coming team like the Padres or a squad on the cusp of the playoffs like the Phillies, Maddon opted to return to his baseball home.

That means he will most likely not face off against the Cubs over the next couple of seasons, as the Cubs hosted the Angels in 2019 and are not slated to play each other again until 2021 (which will take place in L.A.). Barring the aforementioned World Series meeting, Maddon and the Cubs likely won’t cross paths in Chicago for the next few seasons.

It also means Maddon will get to team up with the best player in the game (Mike Trout) and an exciting young two-way star (Shohei Ohtani) while inheriting a roster that otherwise has some major flaws. The Angels have struggled to build up a roster around Trout over his nine seasons, making the playoffs just once in 2014 and getting bounced from the ALDS by the Kansas City Royals that season.

But the Angels do have some intriguing prospects coming up the system — led by outfielder Jo Adell — and Maddon has experience taking a team and elevating them to contender status immediately. He also carries immediate clout that will help draw free agents to L.A., as he did in Chicago with Jon Lester.

Maddon will be reunited with former Cubs fan favorite Tommy La Stella, who was starring for the Angels earlier this season before a leg injury sent him to the shelf for several months.

In many ways, this is an ideal fit for Maddon, who will get to stay in a big market with a team willing to spend and a roster that at least has some incredible talent from Day 1. It would obviously be a difficult task to try to overtake the juggernaut Houston Astros in the AL West, but he accomplished a similar feat in Chicago when he led the Cubs past the Cardinals in Year 1 (and kept the Cards out of the playoffs for the next three years until their return to October baseball this fall).

The Cubs, meanwhile, have not yet announced a new manager, though David Ross still looms as the favorite to take over Maddon's former gig. Theo Epstein's front office interviewed Mark Loretta, Will Venable, Joe Girardi and Ross earlier this month and also planned to talk to Joe Espada and Gabe Kapler this week.

Epstein said the Cubs are "full speed ahead" to hire a new manager, so expect them to move quickly to finalize Maddon's heir.