Can Cubs afford to keep Nick Castellanos after this season? Can they afford not to?

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SAN DIEGO – Outfielder Nick Castellanos and his 1.046 OPS over the past six weeks might be the best thing that’s happened to the Cubs all season.

Next season? Probably not so much.

Agent Scott Boras already is positioning his 27-year-old client – and instant Cub fan favorite – as a premier player on the upcoming free agent market that also could include such All-Star hitters Anthony Rendon, J.D. Martinez and Marcell Ozuna.

“He’s the youngest free agent, and he doesn’t have a qualifying offer,” Boras said, referring to the system that ties draft-pick compensation to free agent signings. “So I would say he’s in position to be optimally observed because he fits really the m.o. of any team, whether you’re a rebuilding club, because of his age, whether you’re a club that’s close to winning and wants to win or whether you’re a club that is an existing top-eight club that’s going to compete for the World Series.

“He’s one of those guys that fits all clubs.”

Castellanos, who was acquired at the July trade deadline in a trade from the tanking Tigers, has provided not only a charge to the Cubs’ lineup but also a walk-year showcase for the outfielder during a pennant race.

Whether a high-priced, long-term contract can be had on the open market this winter after the last two controversial, slow moving winters, Boras does not seem deterred – nor particularly motivated to seek an extension with the Cubs before going to market.

“My idea of exclusivity,” he said when asked about giving the Cubs an “exclusive” window to talk, “is we’ll listen to everybody and then Nick has to make a decision. … Normally, [a free agent] is going to want to listen to the Cubs, obviously, and listen to other teams as well.”

In other words?

“It would be exclusivity of the league,” Boras said. “I won’t be listening to the Mumbai Indians.”

Castellanos fit in quickly with teammates and said he enjoys playing for the Cubs. He also said he won’t think about free agency until the season’s over – and that includes any potential for concern about recent market trends or whispers about collusion.

“All that stuff is out of my control,” he said. “Right now my free agency or the relationship between owners and players is not here.”

Cubs president Theo Epstein said he’s “not ruling anything and not ruling anything out” regarding Castellanos but that all the team’s focus is on October right now.

Castellanos, who takes an old-school, less-metrics-driven approach to hitting, would seem to fit especially well as the Cubs retool the lineup to presumably include more diverse hitters to complement those left from their launch-angle, high-strikeout core.

Asked whether he’s worried Castellanos’ rejection of modern metrics might adversely impact his market with some teams, Boras smiled and said:

“Never ask an artist how paint’s made.”

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