Chicago Cubs: Zobrist signed, Castro traded; Signing Heyward next?


Tuesday night was filled with action as the Chicago Cubs first signed free agent Ben Zobrist to a four-year deal, then traded former centerpiece Starlin Castro to the Yankees. What’s next for them this winter?

Last season’s finish only increased the notion that this Chicago Cubs team is close to bringing a winner to the Windy City. A year ahead of schedule, they went to the NLCS only to fall to the New York Mets. They snatched a “win” away from New York by getting Ben Zobrist for $52 million over for years. Then they dealt with the other side of the city in dealing Starlin Castro to the Yankees for pitcher Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan.

The Castro move was initiated by the Zobrist acquisition due to where he played and the money he was owed. Most realized with a contract like that, Zobrist wasn’t coming in to be a utility guy. Most didn’t have time to speculate as the Cubs sent Castro and his contract to the Yankees for Warren and a PTBNL which is reportedly Ryan.

There are many that feel the Yankees “stole” Castro from the Cubs–and that may actually be true. The Cubs in essence traded Castro for Zobrist. Zobrist gives them a veteran guy who can play multiple positions and help stabilize the top of the order. It will also afford more opportunity to Javier Baez–who will also be working out in center field. But with John Lackey officially signed and Warren a potential rotation guy I think the Cubs will look to spend their remaining money on a center fielder.

When I wrote about the potential of Jason Heyward coming to Chicago over a month ago, the reception was–less than warm. Shortly after, one of my colleagues wrote on the other side of the coin, and it’s clear it is a nation divided on Heyward. Talented? Most agree. Worth the money to bring to Chicago? Not so much. But it currently seems to be a rumor that won’t die, and let’s be honest–rumors is about all we have this time of year.

Heyward would be a solid addition to the offense, but while he is a spectacular right fielder, moving to center is not always an easy transition. There is also some talk that Dexter Fowler would like to return to Chicago, but there seems to be a disconnect on the amount of years of the deal. The Cubs are looking short-term while Fowler is looking long. His chances with other teams of scoring a longer deal are much better.

On a personal note as a fan, it’s bittersweet to see Castro go elsewhere. I was a staunch supporter, even when most were ready to run him out of town. When I say he handled the benching like a “true professional”, some believe that’s how he should have handled it. But that’s not always the case with professional athletes, is it? He rallied upon his return to the lineup, and his final days as a Cub were positive at least. The good news is, should he turn into the next Lou Brock, at least he’s over in the American League and not in the division.

Next: The end of an era

The Cubs might not be done just yet, but they’re not waiting to see what the market does. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are being proactive this winter, and that will put the Cubs in good position as Spring Training will be here before you know it.