The current projected outfield mix for the Chicago Cubs certainly has potential – but it comes with a whole lot of question marks and risk, as well. This has led some people to circle Nick Castellanos’ name on the list of remaining free agents to target once the MLB lockout ends.
However, according to Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic (subscription required), the Cubs ‘will not be a major player’ for the All-Star outfielder, especially if the new CBA ties him to draft pick compensation and international bonus pool money (not to mention the hefty contract Scott Boras will undoubtedly pull in for his client).
This year with Cincinnati, Castellanos cranked it up a notch at the plate, driving in 100 runs for the first time in his career, while hitting a personal-best 34 home runs to go along with 38 doubles. His exploits at the plate earned him the first Silver Slugger of his career.
At season’s end, he quickly opted out of the remaining two years of his deal with the Reds – setting up a trip into free agency.
For whatever reason, it feels like Cubs fans, on the whole, tend to gravitate toward players they’re familiar with. Whether it be reunions with Kris Bryant or Anthony Rizzo, if you were associated with the team during its recent run of success, odds are you’d be welcomed back with open arms. But the simple truth is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is what slammed the team’s window shut. Jed Hoyer, thankfully, seems hellbent on taking the team in a different direction moving forward.
If the Cubs were one big bat away from being legitimate contenders in 2022, Castellanos would make a lot more sense. But they have too many holes as currently constructed to be considered anything more than a potential fringe postseason hopeful, at best.
Chicago Cubs will spend 2022 evaluating their internal outfield options
Hoyer will undoubtedly be looking at the coming season as a key year of assessment for at least two of his returning outfielders in Jason Heyward and Ian Happ. Heyward is coming off the worst offensive season of his career and saw his 2021 campaign ended early with a concussion he suffered on the basepaths.
With two years and $44 million left on his deal, if he can’t bounce back at the dish, it’s worth wondering if Chicago will cut ties with the veteran outfielder at some point in 2022. That would be a tough ending to his stint on the North Side, but you’re not going to take reps away from someone like Brennen Davis by trotting out a guy who was more than 30 percent worse than league average at the plate last season.
Ian Happ was more feast or famine than any hitter we’ve seen in recent memory. Early in the summer, he looked very much like a sure-fire non-tender at year’s end. But then he went on an absolute tear, salvaging his season – and his job – over the final two months. From Aug. 1 on, Happ slashed .288/.363/.581, all but guaranteeing him a spot in the Chicago outfield heading into 2022.
Prior to the lockout, Hoyer brought in former first-rounder and top prospect Clint Frazier. If he’s healthy, he could get the chance to seize a starting job. We could also be looking at a platoon situation in left, pairing Frazier with guys like Michael Hermosillo and Harold Ramirez.
MLB Trade Rumors pegged Castellanos for a five-year, $115 million deal heading into the offseason. With where this Cubs team is right now, it’s hard to justify giving a guy who’s brutal defensively and would be in his mid-30s by the end of the deal a contract like that – especially with a group of outfield prospects on the rise and some questions that need answering before we know exactly what to make of this mix.