And of course on the day I was just bitching about the nickel and dime and middle of the road moves the Cubs have engaged in this season, they go and get what was one of the best bats on the market, trading for Detroit’s Nick Castellanos. Of course, this is on the same day, even hour, their “contemporary” Astros get Zack Greinke. You see what I mean, folks?
Anyway, there’s no question Castellanos lengthens either the lineup or the bench, depending on what his role is that night. Castellanos is only having an ok year, with a wRC+ of 106. However, he’s been murdering left-handed pitching all year, to the tune of a 166 wRC+ this season, with a 51.7% hard-contact rate. Even if he only starts against lefties, he’ll bring that to the table and take any of Schwarber, Heyward, or Garcia out of the lineup (with Happ moving to second, if that’s a game we want to play) and that’s an upgrade.
If Castellanos gets more playing time than that, it still removes any temptation for Almora (more on him in a second), or Garcia (though I can’t see Happ getting THAT much time at second base), less Happ, or less Schwarber I guess if that’s the way they want to go. At the very least it puts some of those guys on the bench on a given night to give Joe Maddon some pinch-hitting options other than Victor Caratini or Willson Contreras, whichever wasn’t starting.
It’s not without some concerns. When Castellanos plays and moves Heyward to center, or out of the lineup completely with Happ in center, that’s a legitimately terrible defensive outfield. Again, the Cubs mitigate some of this by being the best ground-ball generating team in the league, but any fly ball that heads out over the heads of the infielders is going to have their pitchers swallowing their tongues. Castellanos gets a break in going from the gargantuan outfield of Comerica to Wrigley…as long as the sun and wind don’t cause him to asphyxiate (no guarantee there).
As for knock-on effects, either Happ’s call-up was short-lived and he’s headed back to Iowa, or Albert Almora is. AA has been simply woeful at the plate going on two months now, and maybe the only way to save him is to give him the ABs in Iowa he never really got in the first place. That seems the most likely move.
Even made more so by the acquisition of Tony Kemp, who can play center and left and second base, though none all that well. Kemp isn’t completely helpless with the bat, though it feels like this is the pinch-runner-in-big-games thing they love, except they aren’t going to be playing in any big games, are they (chuckle, chuckle)? Kemp’s BABIP is in the toilet this year, though that might because he never, ever hits a ball hard. Still, last year he put up a 107 wRC+, and with any slice of luck he can at least not be a giant sucking sound at the plate for whatever ABs the Cubs deign to give him. Again, strengthens the depth….but by a measure you’ll need a magnifying glass to see. Kemp probably thieves the defensive replacement role from Almora as well.
As far as David Phelps, what he provides other than the opportunity for Seinfeld Steinbrenner jokes, I’m not sure. Two years ago he was really effective with the Marlins, when he was striking out nearly 12 hitters per nine innings. But he’s been less so with Toronto, and ouchy. His fastball has lost some serious juice this year, which has caused him to with far more cutters and curves. Neither is generating any results that are going to cause tumescence anywhere. He’s a guy. That doesn’t mean he won’t get more usage than he should, because that’s just how things work around here.
As for what’s going away, neither pitcher the Cubs gave up for Castellanos would be considered anything more than a lottery ticket. Both Paul Richan and Alex Lange have not lit it up at High-A, though they’re only 22 and 23, so they have time to figure it out. At best they were two seasons way, more likely three. On the one hand, you wonder if the Cubs should be giving up on any pitching prospects at this point. On the other, given their track record, they might as well cash in on every one because they’re likely not going to do shit.
As for flogging Carl Edwards Jr. to San Diego for Brad Wieck…it’s just sad. You could see it with Edwards, he was so close to being a real thing. And he clearly wanted it pretty badly. And maybe that was the problem. He couldn’t handle it not working, because you could see him go into a sulk when the slightest thing didn’t go his way. Then he pitched scared, and wildly, and that’s how we got here. It just wasn’t ever going to happen here for him, and it’s best for everyone to move on. I just wouldn’t trust the dude who gave up a ton of homers in San Diego to do much for you.
At least there are more options now. At least they haven’t given up. Now get your head out of your ass and let’s go.