Continuity, improved receiving skills makes Castillo a keeper -- but the Cubs need to find a suitable complement at catcher

I’ve been thinking a lot about this catching situation as a place to possibly upgrade the lineup and a couple of those potential solutions, Russell Martin and Brian McCann, would essentially spell the end of the 27 year old Welington Castillo’s career with the Cubs.

I’ve changed my mind.

Here are the biggest concerns about  Castillo

1)  His ability to frame pitches

There really is nothing we can debate about that.  He struggles in that area.  However, that can be taught.  We have seen the Astros Jason Castro go from one of the worst framing catchers in baseball to one of the best.  It’s largely a taught skill, not an inherent ability.

2) His game management skills.  

I think this is vastly overstated.  Part of that reason is the so-called catcher’s ERA which is higher for Castillo than it is for backup John Baker.  Let me just say that statistic is basically useless.   He has had issues in the past working with Matt Garza, who demanded that Dioner Navarro be his personal catcher.  But let’s face it, this is Matt Garza we are talking about.  He wants to do things his way and he had a past relationship with Navarro, which perhaps made the easy-going backstop more willing to accommodate Garza’s whims.  That’s not a knock on Navarro but sometimes you have to choose your battles.

As for Castillo, what is his way?

It’s exactly how the Cubs want it to be.  Cerebral.  Catching guru Mike Borzello said that Castillo does “an outstanding job” when it comes to preparation.  He works hard with pitching coach Chris Bosio to put together scouting reports and, just as importantly, sticks to them faithfully.

Here is what Kyle Hendricks said about him after Tuesday’s start…

“Welly and I, pretty much on the same page again, like always, like we have been every start.  It makes it a lot easier when it’s like that.”

No pitcher on the Cubs studies scouting reports the way Hendricks does.  If he and Castillo are on the same page then you can be pretty sure the game is being called per the plan based on those reports.  It’s no coincidence that Castillo has been the catcher for Jake Arrieta’s most dominant starts this year.  His rapport with the two Cubs pitchers that are certain to be part of the rotation next year cannot be overlooked.

Jed Hoyer certainly doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to deal his catcher,

“I really ­believe in Welly. … His name doesn’t get mentioned a lot when we talk about our established young ­veterans, but he can be in that mix as well.”

He can be in that mix.  The lack of certitude in that phrasing leaves the door open, but I think that’s more a statement about how Castillo is not yet a finished product.   For his part, Castillo knows this,

“I think I’ve been better,” he said, “but I can get better as a receiver and catcher.”

One thing nobody doubts is Castillo’s work ethic.  If he thinks he needs to get better than you can take it to the bank that he is going to do whatever it takes to do that.  If he doesn’t get there, it won’t be because of a lack of effort.

3) His uneven performance at the plate

For the second straight season, Castillo has hit better in the 2nd half.  This year that split is much less pronounced but one area where Castillo improved dramatically was in terms of his patience.  Since the break, he has increased his walk rate from 4.8% to 8.3% and dropped his K rate from 27.2% to 20.1%.   That bodes well for continued improvement into next year.

A bigger concern may be that he does a great deal of his damage against LH pitching, hitting .301/.350/.505 vs. southpaws compared to .216/.281/.340 vs. righties.  There is a nearly 100 point difference in wOBA (.376 to .280).

The solution?

The Cubs may still have themselves a keeper in Castillo but he needs help.  The catching situation was a strength last year when he was teamed with Dioner Navarro and I think a similar arrangement is ideal.

To me the best of all possible worlds is a backup or quasi platoon partner that also shores up the pitch-framing gap.

Who are those candidates?

1) Miguel Montero

Montero ranks at the very top in pitch-framing this season.  Not only is that a benefit in itself but Montero can also be a mentor to help Castillo improve in this area.  Montero also hits left-handed and while his offensive skills have declined the past two years, he is still better vs. RHP (.255/.349/.393; .325 wOBA) than either Castillo or Baker have been this season.

He should be available as the Diamondbacks have stated their desire to rebuild and probably have little use for a 31 year old catcher who will be making $40M over the next 3 years.  If the Cubs can exchange him for Edwin Jackson that would save Arizona a year on the back end of the deal and $18M overall.  For the Cubs, that makes Montero’s net price at 3 years and $22M.  Considering Castillo is making just $500, 000 this year, you’d be getting a strong duo that makes a combined $8m/yr (net) or so next season.  It seems like a win-win to me.  I think this deal gets pretty bad by that 3rd year but by then there is a chance that the Cubs will have Kyle Schwarber ready to assume catching duties.  Even if the Cubs are not able to dump Jackson, their tremendous short term flexibility allows them to eat a lot of salary over the next two years  In the short term, they don’t have to be uber-efficient with every single deal simply because they have so many young, talented players making far, far below market value.  They can afford a moderately bad contract in exchange for better production.  If Montero gives them 2 win production, then I think they can easily live with taking on that entire deal if it means giving up less value in return, but I think there is enough risk to where the Cubs will want to trim some of that contract down one way or the other.

One more note to add here is that part of Montero’s decline stems from nagging back injuries.  Having Castillo to share time will greatly reduce the stress and perhaps he can perform better with less workload.

2) Hank Conger

The Cubs have inquired about him in the past.  The switch-hitter has not hit as hoped but he too ranks among the top pitch framers in baseball.  He is also ready to enter his prime as he will be 27 by Opening Day.

The Cubs couldn’t pry him loose before but maybe they can buy low after an off-season.  Two years ago he hit .249/.305/.420 with 7 HRs vs RHP which is about league average (102 RC+, .315 wOBA) — and again, better than Castillo and Baker have been this season.

Another benefit is that Conger is used to this type of role as he has been the 2nd fiddle to the underrated Chris Iannetta the past two seasons.

3) The 3-headed monster: David Ross and Rafael Lopez

He isn’t going to help on offense but David Ross is a good, experienced catcher who is among the best at framing pitches and will bring leadership to the clubhouse.  He may also help bring in Jon Lester since he has been his personal catcher in Boston.

I would also consider keeping 3 catchers in this scenario.  The third would be Rafael Lopez, who hits LH and can spell Castillo for the non-Lester starts when he needs a break.  He can provide some OBP and good defense without getting exposed too much in his rookie season.  Lopez is also a converted infielder who has played some 2B, 3B, and 1B in the past.  He can be an emergency infielder to help ease the roster crunch, though the Cubs unique middle of the field athleticism makes them so deep they probably won’t ever need to dig that far down.  A luxury they have is that they can be creative when it comes to their roster construction.  The  first emergency infielder would be Arismendy Alcantara.  There is also Luis Valbuena who can play 2B.  The latter two can play SS in a pinch as well but with the Cubs having two big league shortstops in their everyday lineup, it will be easy to give the starter a day off without losing much in the way of production or defense .  WIth Starlin Castro and Javier Baez and a 3rd SS on the way in Addison Russell, that doesn’t figure to be a long term problem barring a complete catastrophe.  And we still haven’t factored in that the Cubs would carry at least one utility infielder.  Both Chris Valaika and Logan Watkins can play every infield position.  Watkins can even be rostered as a 5th outfielder to help create space.  Valaika has also played some corner OF.

I think the Cubs can upgrade this position and lengthen their roster while hanging on to Castillo.  I consider him a 2nd division starter and someone who gets exposed a bit if he plays everyday, but there is still some upside left, especially in that pitch-framing area.  Teams like the A’s have found value with platoons and time-sharing type situations in which players complement each other’s strengths and minimize exposure to their weaknesses.  Castillo may not be an ideal everyday catcher (yet) but a Castillo/Montero platoon would be among the most productive and balanced catchers in the game.  It would come at a much smaller cost than signing a free agent like Martin in terms of contract, compensation, and the potential lost value of giving up on Castillo altogether as a starter.  In fact, in addition to complementing Castillo’s skills, working with Montero, Ross, and even the young Conger could help Castillo improve that glaring weakness — and that, in turn, could be that next step toward being a legitimate everyday catcher on a contending team.

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  • I had posted a long comment a while back explaining why I thought the Cubs should be serious bidders for Russell Martin. I changed my mind about two weeks ago based on nothing more than the consistent good play and incremental improvement I see in Castillo. And then the statement by Hendricks after his last start removed any doubts in my mind. There are better places to focus resources to improve this team long term, then at starting catcher, and as we add more offense to the lineup his offensive production will play well at the #8 spot. He deserves another year as our #1, IMO.

    By the way, John, have you come across any studies purporting to show that the importance of pitch framing has been declining over the past 1 1/2 years?

  • In reply to TheThinBlueLine:

    I agree. I had been back and forth on signing Martin. About a week ago, I was leaning towards signing him and dealing Castillo, but Beef's play with the bat and with gunning down runners of late keeps me wavering. He's looked very good of late.

    I question the Montero trade. It definitely makes sense, John. My question revolves around playing time in this platoon. Hypothetically, how would that getting divided up. About 50/50 with Welly facing right-handers that he's fared well against in the past?

  • In reply to TheThinBlueLine:

    I agree as well. Recently, Castillo looks like the player we thought he could be. I hope the Cubs work with him extensively this winter on his defense and try to figure out how to get him ready to produce early in the year. If we want to compete (or just be competitive) we need to improve the starts to our seasons. The past two years we had terrible starts and a lot of that was due to the cold bats.

  • How about Charles Cutler--hits lefty, .300 for
    The Smokies and is 28. Don't know about framing ability or arm, but looks attractive from afar.

  • In reply to IVYADDICT:

    One Cutler in Chicago is enough to contemplate at one time!

  • In reply to IVYADDICT:

    Cutler is a liability behind the plate. I think Lopez, who hit just as well at a younger age in AA and plays much better defense is the better option if you want to go within the organization.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Hello. Love the site...First time poster, long time reader and 30 year Cub fan from NY to NC.

    What do you think about Cervelli from the Yanks?

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    Where does Castillo stand with his contract? Is he a free agent this off season? Also, I heard a rumor that David Price might be interested in playing for the Cubs, is that just smoke? A lot more attention seems to be spent on the idea of Lester coming here so I was just curious about that.

  • In reply to Brandon Halford:

    Arb year and he makes 500K this year, so we shouldn't see too big an increase. He is going to be cheap.

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    In reply to Brandon Halford:

    Castillo is Cubs property until 2018

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    Beyond popular belief shown on TV with the "Pitch Track", a strike is called where the pitch crosses the plate. Too many times I've heard the "bad pitch framing" note. It doesn't matter how he makes it look once it's in the mit, that doesn't dictate a strike. This isn't against you John, it's against how we evaluate players now a days.

  • In reply to Evan Conn:

    I still have some doubts about the pitch-framing stat, in part because it is still in it's infancy, and I am not sure if other potential factors play a role, specifically who is pitching and who is hitting. But there is some consistency to the data, so there appears to be at least something there. Whether it is overstated I don't know yet, but there is enough info to suggest it matters to some degree.

  • In reply to Evan Conn:

    You're talking theory, not reality....

  • Catching is the most grueling position on the baseball field and should be a platoon position. That doesn't have to mean, however, that one guy plays only against lefties, but the wear and tear on the knees and hips with all the bending and on the hands an the head with all the foul ball action requires that the position be shared in order to keep the position involved in the offense. Otherwise, your catcher gets worn down to a nubbin'. Montero sounds expensive for what you're getting but if it's a way to deal off Jackson then so be it. At least you'd be getting some value for those millions. In the long run though, I think we want to do our best to get Schwarber and that Z kid up to MLB par and run with Wely and whoever who can spell him occasionally and do an adequate job with the pitchers.

  • In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:

    Agreed that they should platoon but not in a strict lefty/righty split. I would like to see it more like the Navarro situation where Castillo still got plenty of playing time.

  • I really like the Montero idea John, to flip EJAX for him makes it even better.

    Nonetheless, Castillo's L/R splits are brutal. While I think he can work to close that huge gap it is quite a bit of ground to make up. Still, he is only 27 and his contract is cheap!

  • In reply to Ryno2Grace:

    Exactly, they can afford to stick with him and even add an expensive caddy.

  • John - Do I understand you correctly? You're not suggesting a strict righty/lefty platoon. Castillo would still start against the majority of left-handers.

  • In reply to AggBat:

    Just saw your reply to Tinker. Not a strict platoon.

  • In reply to AggBat:

    Correct. I am suggesting more of a CAstillo/Navarro type platoon where you keep both players active and with enough ABs to keep them in rhythm. I would still play Castillo against some RHP since I think he deserves better than to be the short side of a platoon.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If they won't take all of Jackson's salary in a deal for Montero, what if we took Cody Ross off their hands as well. He is owed 10 million plus for 2015.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I say go with Lopez get him 200-250 AB this year. With Castillo getting around 350-400. I think the FO is planning on them keeping the spot warm for Schwarber anyway.

    I like Baker he is a good teammate and did an OK job. But I would like to see what Lopez can do and maybe play a smidgen of infield as well. Like you said John he would give us some flexibility and he is inexpensive and we don't have to trade anyone for him. You never know what you have until they play.

  • How are Lopez' defensive skills as far as pitch framing etc.? It looks like he may be able to hit a little bit. He is 26 yrs and Castillo 27. Perhaps they can complement each other until Schwarber arrives? And then maybe go with 3 catchers because Schwarber can also play OF and Lopez INF?

  • I've mentioned this before, but haven't received much of a response. Don't you think Castillo would improve by getting in tip top physical shape? He looks like he's still carrying baby fat. It couldn't hurt him to be leaner.

  • In reply to AggBat:

    He's in good shape, he just has a rather thick, stout body shape. He is pretty quick behind the plate and is among the very best when it comes to blocking pitches so it doesn't hamper his mobility or quickness back there. I think it's more body type than anything else. Some guys are just built that way just as some (CJ Edwards) couldn't be bulky if they tried.

    It should also be noted that Castillo has been better in the 2nd half in each of the last two seasons, so I think that speaks well to his physical conditioning.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I believe he prefers "big-boned" ;)

  • In reply to hawkmcd:

    Haha! We can go with that.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree. You want your catcher to be thick. There's going to be collisions at home plate, no matter what the rules say. You don't want someone who goes airborne with the least amount of contact. Castillo has the body type of a catcher.

  • In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:

    So does Schwarber. I really hope he proves his case at C. I have hopes of Bench.

  • In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:

    I was worried about his knee bur from what I have heard they look like they are doing ok.

  • Say Schwarber's bat does not slow down. Why not give him a chance to work with Castillo and build a relationship with Arrieta and Hendricks by calling him up summer 2015. Put that big bat to use. Let him play OF and C and slowly move it to C full-time 2016.

  • In reply to Burns0128:

    Schwarber will not be up next season. The Cubs wanted Kris Bryant to spend his first full pro season in the minors. It won't be any different with Schwarber. And he is better off getting more reps as a catcher in the minors if he he is going to stick at the position.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, Ive seen no mention of what Monteros contract situation. Didnt he just sign a 5 yr or so contract about 2 yrs or so ago? If we did want to trade for him, what might the Snakes want? They have a 1b and plenty of young ifs.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    It;s in the article...has 3 years and $40M remaining. Not cheap.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Schwarber did play double the games that Bryant did
    :p

  • In reply to Burns0128:

    Doeesn't change that he didn't play a full minor league season from beginning to end or that the Cubs specifically said they didn't want to call up Bryant in his first full pro season. You can hope if you want, but it won't happen. We should be very happy if Schwarber finishes and thrives in AAA as Bryant did.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Schwarber's defense as a catcher is much less developed than his offense. His bat could possibly be ready by the beginning of 2016, and could possibly come up as a left fielder, but as a catcher, he is unlikely to be ready for a call up before September 2016 at the very earliest.

  • In reply to Burns0128:

    I was going to say something along those lines but that wouldn't be until the end of next year or 2016, The issue in my mind is whether we want to sign anyone at all for 3-4 years. Ross would be fine with me if that is what it takes to get Lester, but barring that I'd rather go with Lopez as the back-up until Schwarber can come up. If his bat gets him here earlier and he has to start in LF and ease into more C time so be it.

  • Well, I haven't seen him in person since last season and TV does make you look bigger, so I'll defer to your assessment of "Beef's" fitness. :-)

  • Castillo has shown off a very impressive arm lately, hasn't he? I think he does enough with the bat that he isn't a total liability and as long as enough prospects pan out, he should be firmly rooting in that 8th spot.

    I think IF the Cubs can trade Jackson for Montero, I'd be on board, but otherwise not interested unless the would kick in a bunch of $$. Expensive for an older guy with (seemingly) declining skills. I'm intrigued by the Ross/Lopez/Castillo 3 headed monster. Would they all get enough ABs though?

  • Bravo, John--agree 100%. It's really hard for me to picture this FO relegating Castillo to backup duty when he does so many things well and is at the point in his career where he could be on the cusp of a big season. Especially when you consider how heavily the Cubs rely on executing game plans and how well Castillo operates within the Cubs' system. Would another (FA) catcher adapt so well?--especially an older guy who has his own opinions and own ways of doing things?

    It's also hard for me to believe that, over the next three years, a guy like Martin is really a better hitter than Castillo. When you look at their career numbers, they're about the same, and Castillo is entering into his 28-30 seasons; whereas Martin will be in his early thirties...and his career numbers benefit from including his prime years. IMO a Russell signing would be regrettable and there's a better than 50-50 chance that Castillo is the better player in 2015, let alone 2-3 years from now.

    I also completely agree with what you said about the backup situation. That's really the way to add value at the catching position. I think of something Billy Beane said a year ago in an interview--that a big secret of the A's success is not carrying guys who are below replacement level, and making sure that everyone has a role they can succeed in. Think of how many guys the Cubs have had in recent years who have been replacement level or worse--the Darwin Barneys, John Bakers, etc. We have frequently seen lineups with 4 of these types of guys starting on the same day--it's been common at times.

    Some of those leaky holes in the Cubs bucket of talent will persist for another year or so, just because so many young players are getting established and many of them will struggle in the short term (and not all will pan out), but it is definitely in the Cubs' interest to avoid compounding those necessary "leaks" with additional, unnecessary ones (like Baker). They need a good, professional bench. As young guys come up, the bench will likely get augmented by some guys like Coghlan and Valbuena, which will help. But one area where they need to add from outside the org is backup catcher.

    I've been a fan of Lopez since he was drafted, and always thought he could hit a little bit and was really underrated and forgotten about by many, but I don't see him as the guy for the Cubs to pin that backup role on for 2015. He's not ready for that (and may never be). At this point, he's probably just that guy on the depth chart at AAA who comes up when someone gets injured. Even though he is getting long in the tooth for a minor leaguer, his bat is probably not going to be a positive at the MLB level at this point.

    There's not a lot of great options out there (after all, we're talking about backups), and we shouldn't expect to find a guy who can do what Navarro did, but if they can find a guy who can at least flirt with the Mookie Line (700 OPS) against RHP, it would make a worthwhile difference, and the guys you're mentioning (Conger, Montero) could fit that bill.

  • My apologies, John. I just noticed you mentioned Monteros contract at $13m for the next 3 yrs. Isnt that a bit expensive for a platoon catcher? Conger might offer better value. BTW, Id love the Snakes to take EJax off our hands, I just doubt theyd do it. Tony LaRussa had EJax in StL and let him go.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Yes, very expensive. I think the Cubs need to shave some of that off. But if you think of one, say, 4 win catcher between their combined production and if they can make it a less than $10M deal between the two, I think that is still good value overall.

  • I have always believed that most of a catchers value is derived from his ability while behind the plate.

    As far as assessing a catchers value, one non metric comment that has stuck with me through the years is what Fergie Jenkins said (I am paraphrasing) about Randy Hundley during his time with the Cubs:

    When I pitch and Randy is not behind the plate calling the game, its like trying to eat a steak without a knife.

  • I absolutely agree that catcher is the most grueling position on the field. First I think there are a ton more skills to master and in an ideal world I think catchers would hit their peaks defensively much later than any other player. However, I think the physical toll playing catcher consistently takes on the body begins the physical decline before most guys can come near their ideal "peak" defensively.

    The other solution is to go pay the Molina family to have more kids. Yadi is the best defensive catcher and maybe best catcher of all time (you can argue all you want, but this is one argument I won't budge). His brothers were just tough guys too. Unbelievably impressive.

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    It takes a big man to admit that maybe we were too quick to judge on Castillo. I've always thought that Castillo was the best option right now for this team. As much as his pitch framing may be a bit of a downer, his arm his a powerful weapon back there. I think he is putting notice to other teams thinking that they can run on the Cubs. This last few weeks he has been outstanding!

    I think I'd sign David Ross this off season. He would be a nice compliment to Castillo as well as an incentive to Jon Lester.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Definitely too quick to judge a tough, hard-worker like Castillo. Remember when some people thought Steve Clevenger was better. Now that is just funny.

  • Who are the catcher-whisperers out there? Who taught Montero how to frame pitches? Seems to be working with Bosio & Johnson - maybe instead of paying Montero we could just pick up a great coach for a lot less money.

    I do like the idea of finding a creative solution for Ejax's salary and in that sense this might actually be cheaper than hiring a new staff member, especially since it might not be possible to pry them away from another staff like that. Would be awesome if there was such a coach who was a good fit that could spend some time working with Schwarber as well.

  • In reply to hawkmcd:

    Borzello is a great catching coach but the Astros have been at the front when it comes to framing.

  • I wouldn't take much from Hendrix's statement. It's just good form for pitchers to compliment and give credit to their catchers. I can't put him in the young core just yet because he's 27. If he finds it over the next couple years, he'll begin to regress pretty quickly, so we don't have much payout for all that patience.

    The Kyle Schwarber element make this all the more interesting because (assuming that he is successful, which is a bad idea to count on) all we need is a bridge to 2017. In fact, a regressing Castillo would be a decent partner with Kyle. So, I'm torn.

  • In reply to bzalisko:

    Hendricks wasn't prompted. It's one thing to say nice things when you are asked, but to flat out lie when you're not prompted on the subject? I doubt it.

  • Guys,

    David Ross is what 36 years old?? We have a younger version of him in Baker.., and we all are willing to let him go, Right?

  • In reply to rakmessiah:

    Ross has ties to Lester and is far better at framing pitches. Prefer Ross as much as I like Baker as a good guy and nice clubhouse presence.

  • Castllo strong finish has turned the view that the Cubs need an upgrade at catcher. Also, the front office seems more optimistic about the future Schwarber behind the plate. Even if it's more of an of/backup catcher role.

  • I agree a platoon catcher is the most likely, Who does Arizonahave behind him that would make Montero available? If you kept 3 catchers, could you still get away with the 8 man bullpen or is it one or the other, even with all of the flexibilty he cubs have.

  • Off topic - but just can't help it.
    Is this the end of Ejax? Yes, Little Caesar reference intended. Please.

    BTW, I do like WC. Let's keep him, to tutor (hopefully) Schwarber and then we'll have a very nice duo of catchers.

  • In reply to tboy:

    PLEASE let this be the end of the EJax experiment. I can't take it anymore. As the Steve Miller Band would sing, "Go on, take the money and run."

  • ok. i know we had little chance against CY Kershaw, and don't care much about todays result, but hope this was edwins last appereance in cubbie uniform.

    this is because i am a selfish person, and i am going to the cards game next wednesday, and i dont like that there is a chance that he can get close to the mound. been to wrigley 3 times this year, he was on the mound all 3 times... all games were lost before the first inning was over...

    wish him all the best though, i am sure he is a nice guy

  • Edwin Jackson is not doing his part today to help the Cubs get Montero. He couldn't even make it out of the first inning! I'm glad I didn't pay hard earned money for a ticket to today's game. I hope this is his last appearance for the Cubs.

  • Ejax needs to go back on the DL for the remainder of the season.

  • I do not understand why Ejax was on the mound today. Don't understand Valaika at SS either.

  • In reply to Letsplay2:

    It's probably more a matter of getting Baez more play time at 2B.

  • In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:

    OK, yes, that may be their thinking. But Baez can play 2B everyday when Castro is in the lineup, why not get him PT at SS while Castro is out? Why not get Szczur more PT in CF against the lefty? Alcantara could play 2B or SS. Just don't see why Valaika should be in the lineup unless someone needs a day off.

  • In reply to Letsplay2:

    Baez has a lot more to learn about 2B than he does at SS. Alcantara had a minor injury the other day. Maybe he's not 100% yet.

  • In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:

    Alcantara started in CF, but maybe they didn't want him back in the INF at this time. IDK but it seems if he was healthy enough to start in CF he should also have been healthy enough for 2B. Maybe they just wanted everybody where they are likely to play the most. Since Watkins bats lefty they played Valaika.

  • In reply to Letsplay2:

    Not sure about Valaika at SS. Seems an odd choice.

    As for Jackson, I'm scratching my head a little, too, but these are the things I came up with for possible reasons:
    1) To show any interested teams (dear Jeebus, why would anyone ever want to trade for him?) that he is, in fact, healthy and physically able to pitch after being on the "DL."
    2) Perhaps during his DL stint Bosio was working with him on a few tweaks and the Cubs wanted to see how those tweaks played in a game situation. (If it is this one, the tweaks failed miserably obviously).
    3) They wanted to give a vet one last chance to redeem himself and head into the offseason with some confidence to build on. (I'm admittedly reaching at straws here).
    Others may have some (better) ideas. I don't really get it myself though. He really shouldn't be part of the team's plans moving forward. If the FO doesn't trade him or DFA him, I will be highly disappointed. There's no "there" there anymore.

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    In reply to Letsplay2:

    SS is Valika's natural position. Just getting him a little time there to keep him sharp, I would guess.

  • Do you really believe any team would take Jackson at this point? He is beyond awful. I think the Cubs have a Dan Uggla situation at this point--a player so bad, with such a hopelessly bad contract, that you just man-up and release the guy. It's a waste of $22MM over the next 2 years that's true, but it's not like the Cubs can't afford it given their $50MM-ish payroll.

  • As long as we're talking about Castillo, did something happen in today's game? I see his name in the boxscore, but then it looked like he was pulled for Lopez. Is Castillo hurt?

  • In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:

    Got hit with a foul ball in his back. They took him out of the game though I'm not sure of his status.

  • I'd love just to see an offseason program that consisted of Hendricks hanging out with Maddux, and Castillo in turn hanging out with Hendricks and someone like Jose Molina...or Martin. Rizzo has looked better this season thanks to spending time with Votto.

  • In reply to cubbie steve:

    Also, I'm all for Ross if it actually helps get Lester.

  • Edwin Jackson.
    Lamb to the slaughter.

  • In reply to hoffpauir6:

    How can Dan Straily possibly be twice as bad as Edwin Jackson? Man, I can't wait for both of these guys to be ex-Cubs.

  • Way off topic, but I read somewhere that the Cubs are unlikely to pick up Wada's option for $5 million. Is he very underrated or what? I know there are cheaper #5-8 starters out there but he is PRETTY GOOD. I just don't think you can spend five million anywhere else on the roster and have the kind of potential return that Wada would have.

  • Good article. I am on board with staying with Castillo, and adding Lopez as the Lefty backup. Schwarber should be up in early 2016 if he continues on the same trajectory (much like Bryant next season). I'm comfortable with the Castillo-Lopez combo in the mean time, as they should compliment each other very well at the plate...

    Lopez career (minors) vs. RHP's: .308/.412/.419 = .831 OPS

    Castillo (last 3 years) vs. LHP's: .313/.391/.455 = .846 OPS

  • Edwin Jackson isn't going to be traded for anyone.

    If a team wants him, and I can't imagine the demand is high, they can just pick him up when the Cubs release him and they won't be on the hook for the $22 million he's due, plus they won't have to part with a player.

    After the past couple seasons it looks like a minor league deal with an invite to spring training is the best case scenario for him.

  • In reply to Cub Sammy:

    I think the only way he gets dealt is if it's a trade of bad/overinflated contracts. I could see (maybe) John's proposal of the Diamondbacks trading Montero's salary for Jackson since it saves them money in the long run, or something similar. But there's no way that a team is giving up anything they value for Jackson.

  • Observation, I've seen enough of Straily, and Jokisch. Edwin Jackson has good stuff but after all these years in the league he doesn't understand that you can't throw ML hitters straight fastballs all the time. Waste of money! Let's add 2 starting pitchers if possible and go at it next year. Let the young guys take their lumps and see what we need to take the next step. Also, Justin Grimm in the rotation for a try.

  • I had to turn the game off after the first inning because I, er, found some errands to do, no; had to wash my hair; no, had to arrange my sock drawer; no, had to vomit.
    So please, what's the word on why Welington Castillo came out of the game?

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    rib contusion.

  • I agree with the premise of this piece. A complementary receiver is the best route.

    I don't follow baseball well enough to offer specifics but I get the big picture. One of my thoughts is, why don't we trade one of our established late inning power arms?

    The first wave is almost all here. Hendricks, Ramirez, Grimm, Vizcaino, Alcantara, Baez, Soler and Bryant. The second waive will arrive late 15 to early 17 featuring Wilson, Johnson, Russell, Almora, Schwarber and McKinney. If we are able to find a willing partner we could part ways with Strop and add in players ranging from Wood to Olt to Sweeney. In return we could get back minor league players to add to the third wave. The third waive needs to be deep because a lot of them will be traded to fill specific needs by acquiring talent from teams going into rebuild mold and the others will provide cheap depth as the payroll grows.

    I am 100% in on spending stupid on one high quality starting pitcher in the off season. We missed on the first two but the Cubs look like a place to ply your craft for the next five years.

  • Let's not kid ourselves about Castillo. He will be what he is with standard deviation adjustments moving forward. Last year was a career year for him offensively when his Babip was .347. This year it's dropped off to a normal .293. In a perfect world he'd be an offensive platoon player. His career LH splits are an exceptional .376.

    Defensively he's greatly improved his throws against runners. And while we can all agree his pitch framing skills, he does a good job blocking pitches. But is it reasonable to expect those skills to improve? He'll be 28 next year and why can we expect he'll suddenly become a quality framer?

    Castillo is an asset to numerous improvements in our pitching staff. He's an average catcher on a poor team. The thumpers are coming and the need for an above average catcher are diminished.

    Could we use Martin< Of course, but this team has numerous need areas more pressing. Schwarber is coming as are a number of other prospects. I'd favor more long term problems being addressed at this time.

  • The Montero deal makes a lot of sense on paper, but I suspect the D'Backs will find another team looking for a short-term upgrade at catcher and willing to trade fringe prospects, as opposed to the Cubs' offer of one of the worst pitchers in baseball, through 2016. I'd be willing to sweeten the deal with a prospect like Villanueva, or maybe even Olt, but I still don't think that beats the other deals the D'Backs will get, and I'm not so wild about Montero that I'd get into a bidding war.

    For all the successes of the Epstein administration, the performance of the A's-style platoon strategy has been pretty spotty. And it's one thing to take a shot at Hairston / Schierholtz platoon during a lost year; it's another to invest $40 million in a platoon catcher on the wrong side of 30 during a season the team wants to contend. Plus, it's tricker to platoon at catcher, because pitchers like to have some continuity and chemistry with their receiver. Hendricks is used to Castillo, but since he's going against a righthander, he gets Montero instead.

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