Chicago Cubs being “aggressive” in trade market, still pursuing Castellanos

The biggest move the Chicago Cubs have made so far in the 2019-20 offseason was non-tendering infielder Addison Russell, as they announced a flurry of moves on Monday. But could their biggest move be looming?

There were two big news stories that were reported on Tuesday morning that could signal the Cubs’ future plans.

The first report came from reporter Jeff Passan who wrote a story on ESPN about potential trade targets this offseason. The hot names that have circulated include Kris Bryant, Mookie Betts, and Francisco Lindor among others. There have also been reports of Willson Contreras being shopped as well.

For the Cubs, they appeared in Passan’s column under the “WE ARE TRADING SOMEONE” part. Here is what Passan noted about the Cubs in the article:

The Chicago Cubs have been, according to various executives, “aggressive,” “manic,” “motivated” and “obvious” in their desire to trade someone. Or someones. The Cubs are going to make a move. They’re just not sure what yet.

He went on to say this about Contreras and Bryant:

Contreras is the name bandied about the most, partially because at $5 million or so as a first-time arbitration-eligible player, he’s cheap and comes with three full years of control. Bryant, who turns 28 in January, is only four months older than Contreras but could cost quadruple the amount as a third-time-eligible player.

Because Bryant is so costly — and because there’s a risk, albeit slight, that an arbitrator could rule in his favor that the Cubs manipulated his service time and award him an extra day of service, giving him free agency after this season — teams are hesitant on him. And that complicates matters, because a former MVP going on the trade market for a team with aspirations to win in 2020 is as weird as it sounds. It’s simply the calculus these days, in which the balance between now and next is ever harder to strike.

It sure sounds like the Cubs are set to make a move at some point and all signs might be pointing to Contreras being moved. While the Cubs could trade one of their core pieces to build up the farm system and get an MLB-ready player, what has happened on the pursuit of Nicholas Castellanos?

The latest on the Cubs pursuit in the free-agent outfielder, MLB writer Jon Morosi wrote an article about the team still being interested. Here is what he said:

After being acquired by the Cubs at the Trade Deadline last season, Castellanos was an offensive force, hitting .321/.356/.646 with 16 homers and 36 RBIs in 51 games. It’s not such a surprise, then, to hear that Chicago is “still pursuing” the free-agent outfielder, according to MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi.

There is at least some question, however, of how Castellanos might fit on the North Side — both in terms of position and budget.

The Cubs already have outfielders Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr., who is the only true center fielder of the bunch. Heyward did slide to center to help accommodate Castellanos in right field during the second half of last season, but the team’s defensive preference is to keep Heyward in right, according to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian.

Additionally, the Cubs’ payroll next year already projects to be close to $200M after players like Kris Bryant, Javier Báez, Willson Contreras and Schwarber complete the arbitration process or settle on 2020 salaries with the club.

The Cubs would be smart to sign the 27-year-old free agent outfielder to pair with Jason Heyward. They still have a few needs on this team, including potentially two outfielders depending on what they want to do with Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora.

It might be cold outside but the hot stove is starting to heat up.

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