In Nicholas Castellanos, Cubs add the big bat they needed just before the deadline

Tony Andracki
NBC Sports Chicago

The day after the Cubs scored just 1 run in a loss to the Cardinals, Theo Epstein's front office added a big bat to the lineup in the form of Nicholas Castellanos.

The Cubs and Tigers apparently got the deal in just in the nick of time (pun definitely intended):

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Castellanos was in uniform and in the Tigers dugout just after the 3 p.m. deadline, but then was pulled back just before he was set to hit:

The 27-year-old outfielder is hitting .273/.328/.462 this season (.790 OPS) with 11 homers and 37 RBI to go along with a league-leading 37 doubles.

"When you've watched us play over the last few months, it felt at times we were a bat short in the lineup," GM Jed Hoyer said. "Nick is a professional hitter. Obviously he kills lefties and that's something we've really struggled with. We think he's going to give a professional at-bat against both righties and lefties. In the past, he's hit in some really good lineups and really helped them. We felt like that was the kind of hitter we needed to target at this deadline."

He is also raking against left-handed pitchers, hitting .347 with a 1.026 OPS against southpaws this season.

For perspective, he's essentially Javy Baez against lefties this season (Baez is slashing .342 with a 1.093 OPS vs. southpaws).

The Cubs needed an offensive boost of any kind, but especially against left-handed pitching. Theo Epstein and Co. have been scratching their heads trying to figure out why this team has struggled against southpaws all year:

"I don't know," Epstein said last weekend in Milwaukee. "If there's one thing I would've thought for sure at the beginning of the year is that we would've thrived against left-handed pitching and lefty starters. I think that's just the nature of splits sometimes.

"You look around baseball every year - it's the case this year - and you identify a few teams like, gosh, they're gonna rake right-handed pitching, they're gonna rake left-handed pitching. And it just ends up being the opposite. It's just one of those things that's hard to predict sometimes.

"Always in small sample sizes, sometimes even when you're dealing with a big sample - almost 2/3 of the season and a whole team doesn't always play out the way you expect it to. I still think we project really well against lefties. But we're at the point in the season where you haven't done it, you have to contemplate some tweaks to get better production."

The "tweaks" Epstein was referring to at the time was the Cubs calling up Ian Happ, whose right-handed swing was developing well down in the minors before his promotion. But adding Castellanos into the mix would be another nice boost for a lineup that still has plenty of holes against southpaws.

From 2016-17, Castellanos smacked 49 homers and drove in 190 runs while hitting in the middle of the Tigers order.

Castellanos figures to slot in as a corner outfielder with the Cubs (probably in right field), with Jason Heyward moving to center field against right-handed pitchers. 

The Cubs gave up pitchers Paul Richan and Alex Lange in exchange for Castellanos, who becomes a free agent at the end of the season.

Lange, 23, was the Cubs' first-round pick (30th overall) in 2017 out of Louisiana State University. He has struggled this season in the minors with a 3-12 record and 5.82 ERA, but he's been better since a midseason promotion to Double-A Tennessee (3.92 ERA, 1.41 WHIP). 

Richan was the team's second-round pick last summer and was pushed to Advanced Class-A Myrtle Beach this season. The 22-year-old was 10-5 with a 3.97 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 8.3 K/9 before the trade.

In all, it's not a huge haul to give up for a guy like Castellanos, who was arguably the top hitter available on the market and a potential impact bat.

To make room for Castellanos on the 40-man roster, right-handed pitcher Oscar De La Cruz was designated for assignment.

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