With ludicrous numbers being thrown around when it comes to Cody Bellinger's possible contract in free agency, the Cubs need to have fallback options when it comes to reloading the offense and taking aim at returning to the top of the NL Central in 2024.
One possible solution, according to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, could be a familiar face in Phillies slugger Nick Castellanos. Philadelphia could look to move the final three years and $60 million of his deal, as they look for more offensive consistency and defensive prowess in the outfield.
Cubs need more offense - but need to acknowledge Nick Castellanos remains a big-time liability defensively
Make no mistake. Castellanos is a liability in the outfield - but the good news is the Cubs would rarely, if ever, look to utilize him defensively. The obvious fit on the roster is as a full-time DH; maybe they explore getting him reps at first base, given his history as a third baseman early in his career. But he's not going to be an everyday outfielder given his shortcomings with the glove.
Those shortcomings (-6 OAA, -10 Run Value per Statcast) negated a large chunk of what he did at the plate. Offensively, Castellanos turned in one of the best years of his career, earning an All-Star nod for the second time in three years, driving in a career-high 106 runs for the Phillies. The problem, as has always been the case, is that he continued to be streaky - and ranked near the bottom of the league in terms of chase, whiff and walk rates.
In an ideal world, Cubs re-sign Cody Bellinger - but they need fallback options
Even if Bellinger returns, it's worth nothing that he could be moved off his outfield spot sooner rather than later if Pete Crow-Armstrong makes the jump or if someone like Alexander Canario forces his way into the picture. The long-term answer defensively with him is probably first base, with DH reps to keep him fresh - as could be the case with Castellanos.
But let's be clear. Odds are, Castellanos would be a subpar defensive first baseman, even if the Cubs could manage to teach him the position. Bellinger is a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman and center fielder, and brings a far more multi-faceted set of skills to the table than Castellanos, although he's likely to cost at least three times what's left on Castellanos' deal.
There are pros and cons, sure. But what the Cubs can't afford to do is put all their eggs in the Bellinger basket. Castellanos is far from a perfect fit, but could add the pop this team needs in the middle of the order heading into next season, without the weight of a decade-plus, nine-figure contract.