Theo Epstein is unhappy with the Cubs’ OBP

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Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein has a number of reasons to be unhappy with his 19-30 club, but the one that really sticks out to him is the club’s lagging on-base percentage, which was under .300 prior to this afternoon’s game against the Reds. At .299, their mark was ahead of only the Marlins, Nationals, and Mets. As a result, they have scored the fifth-fewest runs in the league, averaging 3.85 per game.

Epstein explained the difficulties, via Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune:

“There is certainly a snakebit quality to it with respect to our timing,” team President Theo Epstein said. “But to me the biggest factor is our inability to draw walks and to get on base overall. On-base skills translate to run-scoring much more than slugging skills.

“To be blunt, we haven’t made much progress improving the on-base skills of some of the players here. If we can’t make improvements with the existing group, we will have to be even more aggressive acquiring players with on-base skills.”

The Cubs’ 6.1 percent walk rate ranks dead last in baseball despite averaging nearly four pitches per plate appearance. The main culprits are Nate Schierholtz, Starlin Castro, Alfonso Soriano, and Welington Castillo, who all have walk rates under five percent while having taken at least 140 trips to the plate.

Reds are the frontrunner for Nicholas Castellanos

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Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that the Reds “have emerged as the frontrunner” to sign free agent outfielder Nicholas Castellanos. Morosi says the Reds and Castellanos “have made progress over the past several days.”

The Reds were going to have a lot of outfielders already when they hit Goodyear, Arizona in a couple of weeks, with newcomer Shogo Akiyama, Jesse Winkler, Nick Senzel, Aristides Aquino, Travis Jankowski, Scott Schebler, and Rule 5 draftee Mark Payton. Senzel was an infielder before last year, of course, so he could move back to the dirt, perhaps. And, of course, the Reds could trade from their outfield surplus if, indeed, they end up with an outfield surplus.

Without question, however, Castellanos would be the big dog, at least offensively, in that setup. He had a breakout year at the plate in 2019, hitting .289/.337/.525 overall (OPS+ 121), but slugging at a blistering .321/.356/.646 pace (OPS+ 151) after being traded from the Tigers to the Cubs. In Chicago — rescued from cavernous Comerica Park — his big doubles power turned into big homer power. If he were to sign to play half his season in hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark one can only imagine the damage he’d do.