The Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma reports that the Cubs have signed second baseman Carlos Asuaje to a minor league contract. With rosters now expanding to 26 players, Sharma suggests Asuaje has a chance to earn a spot on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster.
Asuaje, 28, has a career .240/.312/.329 triple-slash line spanning 586 plate appearances over three seasons in the majors with the Padres. He has almost exclusively played second base in the big leagues.
Normally, a signing like Asuaje wouldn’t register on the radar, but it counts as a splashy signing for the Cubs this offseason. As ESPN’s Jeff Passan notes, the Cubs are one of three teams that have yet to spend money in free agency on major league contracts. The Pirates and Rockies are the other two.
The Cubs have made it clear that they need to get below the $208 million competitive balance tax threshold. According to Cot’s Contracts, they are currently just north of $210 million. To that end, third baseman Kris Bryant, projected to earn $19 million this season, has been bandied about in trade rumors. Shedding Bryant’s salary would be the quickest and easiest way for the Cubs to get under the CBT threshold while addressing other needs on the roster.
The Cincinnati Reds have signed outfielder Nicholas Castellanos to a multi-year deal. That’s the report from C. Trent Rosecrans and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Jon Morosi of MLB.com was the first to report the Reds as frontrunners. The deal is pending a physical. UPDATE: The deal is four years. Financial terms have yet to be reported.
With Castellanos in the fold the Reds are going to have a lot of outfielders 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 already on the roster. Senzel was an infielder before last year, of course, so he could move back to the dirt, perhaps taking over short from Freddy Galvis, who could be dealt. Alternatively, the Reds could trade from their newfound outfield surplus.
Castellanos, however, will have left field to himself. While he’s shaky at best with the glove, 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.
Now that he’ll be playing in hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark one can only imagine the damage he’d do.