If the Cubs Don’t Extend Nick Castellanos, I Am Going to Write a Very Angry Entry in My Diary
On July 31, 2019, the Chicago Cubs did one of the only approximately two and a half good things that they have managed to accomplish all season: they acquired hitting talent Nicholas Castellanos from the Detroit Tigers. After being drafted by the Tigers in 2010, Castellanos became one of the top prospects in baseball, and became a breakout player for the Tigers in 2016. In 2018, he had a career high batting average of .298 and finished third in the AL for hits. Despite all of this and a multitude of other issues, the Tigers traded him to the Cubs in exchange for two minor league pitching prospects, one of whom went to them with a season record of 1–9 and an ERA of 7.36.
Fortunately, I am a lifelong Cubs fan, so I do not have to worry about the poor decisions of Detroit Tigers ownership. As of this writing, Big Stick Nick has played 28 games with the Cubs. He has hit 11 home runs in those games which, coincidentally, is the same number of home runs he had with Detroit this season — with whom he played 100 games. In 115 at-bats, he has an average of .348 and an OBP of .385. To say that he has been good for us would be an understatement. To anyone with half a brain, the Cubs extending Castellanos is a foregone conclusion. But then, the Chicago Cubs are not generally known for doing what anyone with half a brain would do.
As a lifelong Cubs fan, it is imperative that I tell you that the Cubs are extremely and irrevocably cursed. I am not just referring to the 108-year long World Series drought caused by, as the legend goes, disbarring William Sianis from entering Wrigley Field with his pet goat, although that was certainly unfortunate. Our current curse is caused by two things: one, our ownership’s alliance with a political party and presidential administration whose beliefs and actions can be described as bigoted, racist, homophobic, sexist, cruel, atrocious, dangerous, backward, anti-democratic, and, should I really want to start an argument on baseball Twitter, fascist; and two, the inexplicable decision to keep an abusive scumbag not only on the team, but on the active roster. Those who don’t believe in curses (i.e., fools) blame the team’s ongoing struggles on a combination of ownership’s extremely bizarre claims that they have no money to acquire good players, extremely bizarre management choices by the ever-eccentric Joe Maddon, a strong starting pitching rotation that is continually beset by injury, a laughably bad relief pitching rotation, and an offense that cannot perform well consistently despite being virtually unchanged since 2016. All of this is true, of course, but it is part of the curse. I tell you all of this so that you understand why the Cubs doing something seemingly obvious like extending Nick Castellanos may not happen.
Another reason I have doubts about the Cubs extending Castellanos? Jesse Chavez. (No relation, but I’m open to changing that. Give me a call, Jesse.) On July 19, 2018, the Cubs acquired veteran relief pitcher Jesse Chavez from the Texas Rangers. At the time we acquired him, he had played in 30 games for the Rangers and had posted a 3.51 ERA. This, on its own, is decent, but was definitely a boon for the Cubs, whose relief pitching woes were only just beginning. But we were not truly prepared for the greatness we were about to see. Chavez pitched in 32 games for the Cubs and posted a 1.15 ERA. This is insanely good and was unprecedented and unexpected in Chavez. When Chavez claimed that the Cubs, along with the Oakland Athletics, were one of his favorite teams that he had ever played for, we believed him. His performance showed that, whatever the reason — meshing well with the pitching coaches, team morale, management overall, etc. — Chicago was a good fit for him. His extension seemed like a no-brainer. Even if he didn’t maintain a 1.15 ERA in the 2019 season — which was, obviously, very likely — our only other consistently strong and reliable relief pitcher was, and remains, the beloved Pedro Strop. Why not sign one other guy you could depend on?
The answer? I have no idea, but Cubs ownership and management apparently do, because they did not extend Chavez. Chavez re-signed with the Rangers, where he thus far has a 4.85 ERA with the team which, to be fair, is much more in line with the type of pitcher he has been historically. Cubs apologists who defend everything the Cubs do no matter how ridiculous or inexplicable point to this as proof that re-signing Chavez would have been a risky move and would have saddled us with another Tyler Chatwood. My response to this is, well, maybe. My other response to this is, well, maybe not, and I think Chavez would have been a risk worth taking. When one looks at the horrors our bullpen has committed this season, I think it’s safe to say that, at the very least, Chavez could not have made things any worse.
Look, I am far from a baseball expert. I really only understand stats on a surface level. I understand that, one, the sample size we have for Castellanos’ performance in Chicago is still very small; and two, that if we extend him he could very well become what the rest of our best hitters have become: talented hitters who perform well inconsistently and who focus on hitting home runs instead of playing small ball. My response to this is, well, maybe. My other response is, well, maybe not, and at the very least we would have another strong hitter. Certainly, extending Castellanos could not make things any worse.
All of this is why, if the Chicago Cubs do not extend Nicholas Castellanos, I will have no choice but to write a very angry entry in my diary. They did us wrong with Jesse Chavez, and I will not be able to take it if they do us wrong with Castellanos. Except, of course, that I will be able to take it: I am, after all, a lifelong Cubs fan. Suffering comes naturally to me.