I guess it’s Kyle Schwarber Week here at the lab. Then again, it’s always Kyle Schwarber Week here at the lab.
There’s still a lot to be sorted this season, and even thinking about another confounding and infuriating offseason–as the next one is assuredly going to be because the Ricketts Family can’t manage a piss-up in a brewery–is a great way to make yourself miserable. But this season is already kind of miserable, and also I want to get out ahead of an already growing movement.
You can hear it in the wind, and you can see it in the sky. Greater Cubdom is starting a “Re-Sign Castellanos!” movement. You can certainly understand why, as after two weeks with the team he’s hitting .370 as a Cub and has a wRC+ of 194. He’s been a spark, at times, for a team that clearly looks like it needs it far more often than it has in the previous five years. To only focus on these two weeks is obviously a flawed process, so it’s better to be looking over the whole.
Even with this Cub-binge, this isn’t even Castellanos’s best season. That came last year, mostly because he hit the ball slightly harder. Still, Castellanos is only 27, and has at least two or three years of prime production left. The Cubs will clearly need a bat (or two), as Nico Hoerner isn’t going to be ready in 2020 thanks to his wrist problems this year. It all comes together for bringing Castellanos back.
But the issues are clearer than most want to see. The Cubs simply cannot get away with an outfield defense of Castellanos in right and Heyward in center for a full season. especially with Heyward getting a year older. J-Hey isn’t all that good in center, he won’t kill you there but he’s far from the stud he is in right. This might be especially true as the Cubs are likely to lose one of their biggest strikeout pitchers and ground-ball pitchers in Cole Hamels, who negates a bit the need for a good defensive outfield .And unless the Cubs are going to sign Gerrit Cole, that’s an issue. And they’re not going to sign Gerrit Cole (though they should). The need for outfield defense becomes slightly more acute.
Also, if you’re going off simply two weeks, you’d be tempted to hand next year’s centerfield job to Ian Happ, but that’s why we don’t do these things.
You have to project out what you think Castellanos will be. He only has a career 111 wRC+, which is good but not the kind of production one loses their mud over and centers their offseason plans around. However, if you take the last four seasons, where you could say the light went on, it’s 120. That might be a player you center plans around.
A theme that the local scene has been eager to pump is that the change from Comerica to Wrigley will boost his slugging and homers. That’s true to an extent, but how many more homers are we talking? Five at home? Maybe seven? That seems the extent. But even if you add ten more bases to Castellanos’s totals this year (five homers instead of doubles), his slugging goes up 20 points. So a consistent 115-120 wRC+ player is hardly out of the question, and with a couple bounces more than that.
But the defense. You can’t have that. The Cubs are already one of the ten-worst fly-ball defensive efficiency teams in the league. And that’s with Almora out there in center and Heyward in right a decent portion of the time. How much worse do you really want that to get?
Which means signing Castellanos puts him in left. And you already have someone there. The question one would have to ask is will Schwarber ever produce that kind of offense consistently for far cheaper than Castellanos on the open market (leaving you more money to address other concerns)? Keep in mind that Schwarber’s ’18 is about as good as Castelllanos’s current campaign (no fooling, 115 to 116). Castellanos has reached 130, and if you project that he’ll get near there again in the next three years however many times, can Schwarber ever do so? He’s only done it for 70 games four seasons ago now.
In essence, you’d basically be guaranteed a push by swapping out Schwarber for Castellanos in left, though you’d cost yourself spending power which is a concern over there because the Ricketts are so poor, don’t you know? You might do better. Depending on what the return is on any Schwarber trade, maybe you’re a better team. Or then maybe you watch Schwarber pop for 42 home runs in Tampa or something as a DH and you feel shame, especially if his trade value has been neutered over the past few seasons.
If Castellanos keeps this up for the season’s last six weeks, he’s probably looking at a $20-$25M payday per season. That’s essentially Hamels’s money, leaving you with some of Zobrist’s to play with after arbitration raises and such, along with other free agents maneuvering in and out.
This the debate. It’s not so easy, is it?