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The Ex-Cub Factor

One in an occasional series tracking the movements of former Cubs.

1. Starlin Castro.

Remember when Starlin was part of the Cubs' core before there really even was a Cubs core? It was him, Rizzo and a bunch of scrubs. For years.

Castro made three All-Star teams in six seasons on the North Side, but famously had a problem paying attention to the game at hand when there were so many wondrous stars to behold in the night sky. He was eventually dealt to the Yankees (!), where he made another All-Star team. According to Baseball Reference, his nickname is All-Starlin, though there is no proof anyone has ever actually called him that.

Anyway, after the 2015 season - right when the Cubs finally got good - he was sent to New York for Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan. Warren was an outstanding bullpen arm for the Yankees who couldn't mesh with Joe Maddon's usage habits and stunk it up as a Cub. The Cubs traded him back to the Yankees in the Aroldis Chapman deal and he was great again. Of course, Chapman also returned to the Yankees, and they also got Gleyber Torres.

Meanwhile, the Cubs released the light-hitting but career 15.1 WAR Ryan six days after receiving him.

After two seasons in the Bronx, the Yankees traded Castro to the Marlins with two minor leaguers in exchange for Giancarlo Stanton.

After two seasons in Miami, and still just 29, Castro is now a free agent and . . . chasing history.

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By the way, Castro's number one batting comp? Shawon Dunston.

2. Alex Avila.

Longtime readers and The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour listeners may recall that I always thought the Cubs should have held on to Avila (career OBP 3.48) after he came here from Detroit with Justin Wilson in 2017 in exchange for Isaac Paredes (now one of the Tigers' top prospects) and Jeimer Candelario.

Well, they lost out again as the veteran catcher just signed with the Twins.

3. Martin Maldonado.

Okay, so longtime readers and listeners of The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour know I think a lot about backup catchers. Maldonado was another in a long line of weird Cubs backup catcher situations.

The Cubs acquired Maldy last July from Kansas City for Mike Montgomery. Maldy is an excellent pitch-framer and - guess what - has an even stronger arm than Willson Contreras. He can't hit for shit, but that doesn't mean he's not worth having on your roster, depending.

Nonetheless, 16 days after giving up Montgomery for him, the Cubs traded Maldonado to the Astros for Tony Kemp. Maldonado was apparently unhappy over his lack of playing time, and one could reasonably wonder if this was just one small example of the front office's disconnect with Joe Maddon. (It also points to the team's inability to develop Montgomery into a starter as originally envisioned when he was acquired from Seattle for Dan Vogelbach. Yes, he was a valuable swingman out of the 'pen, but the back-and-forth eventually made Monty a miserable clubhouse problem long after his bewilderment at how Maddon abused his arm in 2016.)

Meanwhile, Tony Kemp.

Anyway, Maldonado is now a free agent, and while the Angels have shown interest in him, he's now on the Yankees' radar given that he's one of Gerrit Cole's favorite catchers.

4. Rich Hill.

Rich Hill's Cubdom was so long ago - 2005 to 2008 - I hesitate to keep tracking him, but he does have a 13.6 career WAR, 3.82 career ERA and 3.93 career FIP. He's also been hurt a lot, IIRC.

Hill, a free agent, is now recovering from elbow surgery and hopes to be ready to go again by June. He hopes to wind up back with the Dodgers, where he's spent the last four years, or the Red Sox, where he spent time earlier in his career.

(The Cubs drafted him in the 4th round of the 2002 draft and then sold him to Baltimore in 2009.)

5. Brad Brach.

The Cubs signed the one-time All-Star as a free agent last year and then bargained down his contract after he got mono, which seemed like a cheap-ass thing to do.

On the other hand, Brach downright sucked, compiling a 6.13 ERA (4.12 FIP) over 39 2/3 innings before the Cubs outright released him in August.

Lo and behold, Brach signed with the Mets and notched a nifty 2.67 FIP (3.68 ERA) over 14 2/3 innings, suggesting that maybe the Cubs were the ones asleep at the switch.

The Mets just re-upped Brach for the 2020 campaign.

6. Chili Davis.

Apparently the millennials on the Mets listen to him more than the millennials on the Cubs did. From the New York Post:

Chili Davis received the multi-year deal he was seeking.

The veteran hitting coach is returning to the Mets after agreeing Wednesday on a two-year contract with the club, according to an industry source. Davis' contract with the Mets had expired Oct. 31, and there was question whether he would return as he attempted to land a contract that extended beyond 2020. Also returning is assistant hitting coach Tom Slater.

Under Davis' tutelage the Mets' lineup thrived last season. Most notably, Pete Alonso led the major leagues with 53 homers and Jeff McNeil was in the hunt for the batting title until the final month, ending at .318. The Mets also received a breakout performance from J.D. Davis, who posted an .895 OPS.

You start to wonder about the Cubs, don't you,

7. Rob Zastryzny.

The Cubs drafted Zastryzny in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft, so chalk him up as another team failure to develop a pitcher.

Zastryzny appeared in 34 2/3 innings for the big league club between 2016 and 2018, compiling a 4.41 ERA (3.76 FIP). Those are respectable numbers, and he's still just 27, but his career now hangs in the balance. The Cubs released him last spring and after catching on with the Dodger organization shortly thereafter, he spent the entire 2019 season in the minors. He became a free agent in November and just signed a minor league deal with the Orioles.

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Comments welcome.

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Posted on Feb 14, 2020