Rafael Soriano’s struggles put the Cubs back in the market for veteran bullpen help and Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that they’ve acquired Orioles reliever Tommy Hunter in exchange for infielder/outfielder Junior Lake.
After years as an inconsistent mid-rotation starter Hunter moved to the bullpen full time in 2013 and found success, adding several miles per hour to his now mid-90s fastball and posting a 3.05 ERA and 145/37 K/BB ratio in 192 innings for the Orioles. That includes a 3.63 ERA and 32/11 K/BB ratio in 45 innings this season.
Lake has struggled in 193 games for the Cubs since debuting in 2013, hitting .241 with 16 homers, a .663 OPS, and a hideous 198/31 K/BB ratio. His numbers in the minors are a lot better and Lake has experience at every position except catcher defensively, so if nothing else the 25-year-old could develop into a useful bench player.
Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reports that the Cubs are “aggressively trying to include Starlin Castro in any deal.”
Castro was on the bench Wednesday and Cubs manager Joe Maddon assured the shortstop that it wasn’t because he’d be traded, but of course Maddon isn’t really in position to make those assurances and Chicago’s front office would apparently like to unload the 25-year-old’s long-term contract.
Castro is owed $38 million from 2016-2019, which certainly isn’t a ton of money for a three-time All-Star shortstop, but his underwhelming performance in two of the past three seasons has the Cubs thinking they’d be better off with Addison Russell sliding over to shortstop and another young player–perhaps Javier Baez, who’s currently at Triple-A–taking over as the second baseman.
When healthy and playing well Castro has shown the ability to post batting averages in the .300 range, but the development of his power, plate discipline, and defense have all been underwhelming and it may be time for a change of scenery at age 25. This season he’s hit just .237 with five homers and a .576 OPS in 97 games while posting an ugly 69/16 K/BB ratio and grounding into 15 double plays.
Cubs catcher Miguel Montero has been on the disabled list for two weeks with a sprained left thumb and the consensus seems to be that it will bother him for the remainder of the season, but he feels ready to return and wants to play through the injury.
Or as Montero told Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com: “If I wait to be 100 percent, it’s going to be season-ending, pretty much.”
Montero spoke to a doctor who said he can play through the injury as long as he can tolerate the pain and according to the catcher “in my own mind, I think I can go right now.”
Montero’s injury cleared the path for stud catcher prospect Kyle Schwarber to be called up and he’s been fantastic, hitting .357 with a 1.035 OPS in 19 games. However, he’s also rough around the edges defensively behind the plate and has been seeing action in left field to keep his bat in the lineup.
Assuming that Montero can tolerate the pain and play at something close to 100 percent effectiveness the Cubs are definitely a better team with both Montero and Schwarber at manager Joe Maddon’s disposal, but given the injury and the physical demands of catching that seems like a big assumption to make.