It wasn’t long ago when Chicago Cubs outfielder Nicholas Castellanos played his home games at Detroit’s misfit baseball wasteland, Comerica Park. The Tigers are in full rebuild mode and have been losing games at historic rates. Consistent defeat left Castellanos in a state of discontent. With his contract set to expire after the season, and trade rumors swirling, the writing on the wall evidenced that Castellanos would soon be punching a ticket out-of-town.
Just a few minutes before Major League Baseball’s trade deadline, the Tigers sent their former top-prospect packing. With the Cubs looking to pick up a veteran bat in hopes of making a playoff push in the tight NL Central Division race, both teams reached an agreement that saw Detroit net two Single-A pitching prospects, Paul Richan and Alex Lange, in exchange for the disgruntled Castellanos.
A few days earlier, Nick ripped the Tigers’ home field dimensions by telling the Detroit News, “This park is a joke,” while further adding, “It’s to the point where how are we going to be compared to the rest of the people in the league in terms of power numbers, OPS, slugging and all that stuff when we got a yard out here that’s 420 feet straight across center field?”
When news of the trade finally broke Castellanos packed his bags. He left town and headed for Wrigley taking his .273 batting average, 11 homers, and 37 runs batted with him. The deal seemed good for all the parties involved. Nick got his wishes to play in a more forgiving ballpark for a contender, the Tigers re-stocked their farm system with two pitching prospects, and the Cubs got their desired veteran bat.
The change of scenery is proving great for Castellanos. Being injected into a pennant race is lighting a fire under the slugger, as his batting stats have been climbing steadily over the past three weeks. In nineteen games played for Chicago, Nick is batting .392 with 8 home-runs, 7 doubles, and 17 runs scored to go along with his 31 hits.
The veteran is becoming an anchor in Chicago’s everyday lineup. Batting in the teams “two-hole”, it’s Castellanos job to regularly place the table for the likes of Kris Bryant and Javier Baez. The “Cubbies” are scoring more runs from the top of the order since his arrival.
As of now, the Cubs (68-58) are leading the NL Central race sitting a half game ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals in the division standings, and 3.5 games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Castellanos’ play has been rejuvenated and he is displaying the swing that once made him a Tigers favorite. The outfielder seems more relaxed playing in a winning environment everyday, and is surely giving each game his best effort in hopes of winning a World Series. Don’t forget, this is a contract year and he is looking to cash-in with every swing. With the end of the season looming, one must question whether Chicago will renew their hit-machine rental, or take him back to the video store and drop him in the drop-box for the rest of next year’s free-agent-market buyers.