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.
Nicholas Castellanos, who has a 1.090 OPS this year against LHP, is an ideal fit for NL clubs who could encounter #Dodgers LHPs Ryu, Kershaw, Urias and Hill in a playoff series. Notably, the #Cubs and #Braves have scouts in Detroit tonight. 🤔 @MLB @MLBNetwork— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 20, 2019
It’s currently unclear what a trade package for Castellanos, 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.
The report from @cmccosky on the Cubs interest in Nick Castellanos is correct. There have also been discussions that include Tigers closer Shane Greene. To acquire both would be fairly costly. We are 10 days from the trade deadline.— David Kaplan (@thekapman) July 21, 2019
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.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.