Cubs’ flurry of deadline moves nets coveted hitter, but any impact likely to come from within
While the deals weren’t exactly earth-shattering, the Cubs at least plugged in new options to address every specific need the club had and potentially added some overall depth.
ST. LOUIS — It took some last-minute haggling with the Tigers and a last-minute payroll infusion from ownership for the Cubs to land the hitter they targeted at the trade deadline Wednesday.
But whether Nick Castellanos and a handful of deck-chair-caliber depth moves for the bench and bullpen pay off with a fifth consecutive playoff appearance probably has a lot more to do with what Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Javy Baez, the Cardinals, Brewers and maybe even the Reds do down the stretch.
Castellanos, an every-day corner outfielder who thrives against left-handed pitching, should help lift the Cubs’ awful group performance this year against lefties.
But none of the four additions the Cubs made in the final 30 hours before the deadline rises to the certain-impact level of Aroldis Chapman — or, for the slightly older crowd, Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton.
And these certainly are not your big brother’s 2016 Cubs — or maybe even your uncle’s 2003 Cubs.
But in adding left-hander Derek Holland on Friday, right-hander David Phelps on Tuesday and Castellanos, second baseman Tony Kemp and lefty Brad Wieck on Wednesday, the Cubs at least plugged in new options to address every specific need the club had and potentially added some overall depth.
“I guess it always takes a deadline to spur activity,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “The last hour, and really the last 15 minutes, was really active. But we’re really happy and we think we made moves that can really help us win.”
Castellanos, one of the top two or three hitters traded in the final week before the deadline, should help in particular against lefties (hitting .347 with a 1.026 OPS against them this year).
If anything, the $43 million signing of closer Craig Kimbrel last month offers the most promise for added impact down the stretch.
But the impact almost certainly still is going to come from the hitters already here and a starting rotation that should be whole again for the first time in seven weeks Saturday when Cole Hamels returns from an oblique injury.
That’s one of the reasons the Cubs resisted overtures from other teams to trade off the big-league roster even as they slogged through another ugly road trip — taking the worst road record in the league into Wednesday night’s game in St. Louis.
“Do we believe in this team? Absolutely,” Hoyer said. “If we didn’t believe in them we wouldn’t have been aggressive at the deadline to add. That said, there’s been frustrating figuring out why our road struggles are what they are.”
What the hitting additions mean for now:
• Castellanos, 27, is expected to join the team Thursday and take a regular place in the lineup, though manager Joe Maddon said he wasn’t sure yet where he’ll bat him.
• The Cubs gave up right-handed pitching prospects Alex Lange, a former first-round pick, and Paul Richan, who was having a good season at high-A Myrtle Beach (10-5, 3.97, 17 starts).
• The Cubs didn’t have to part with any of their more prominent prospects, but the Tigers picked up less than $500,000 of Castellanos’ prorated salary, which put the Cubs on the hook for about $2.9 million — or about $2.9 million more than they had left in the budget. “As always [ownership] was incredibly supportive and competitive,” said Hoyer, who would not provide -details, of an ownership that wouldn’t add last winter when more options were available.
• The arrival of Castellanos, who was hitting .273 and tied for the major-league lead with 37 doubles, means more games for Gold Glove right-fielder Jason Heyward in center field, which compromises the overall outfield defense. It also means rookie Robel Garcia is likely headed back to AAA Iowa.
• Kemp, who was acquired from the Astros for recently acquired catcher Martin Maldonado after being designated for assignment last week, adds a high-energy personality and a contact-hitting ability otherwise lacking. “We got to a place we weren’t that comfortable with [carrying three catchers],” Hoyer said, comparing the bench options.