Extension Candidate: Starlin Castro

While pitching will always be baseball's most precious commodity, young shortstops aren't far behind. The Cubs have one of the very best in Starlin Castro, who didn't turn 21 until two weeks ago. Since being called up last May, he's hit .304/.350/.418 in 538 plate appearances, including .367/.406/.567 in the early goings of 2011.

When it comes to long-term contracts for young shortstops, three names jump to mind (in recent years): Jose Reyes, Troy Tulowitzki, and Hanley Ramirez. Let's compare their stats through the first 132 or so games of their careers, the number Castro has played to date…

Castro: .304/.350/.418, 33 2B, 7 3B, 3 HR, 10 SB
Reyes: .283/.307/.407, 28 2B, 6 3B, 7 HR, 32 SB
Tulowitzki: .271/.349/.410, 19 2B, 3 3B, 15 HR, 8 SB
Ramirez: .279/.345/.447, 32 2B, 9 3B, 12 HR, 43 SB

Castro's early career peformance ranks right up there with the other three, though Reyes was the only other guy playing full-time in the show at age 20. The Mets' shortstop gave up his three arbitration years for $12.25MM (total) plus one free agent year at $9MM. Tulo's first extension bought out his three arb years for $17.25MM plus one free agent year for $10MM. Ramirez's contract was the biggest of them all, buying out his three arb years for $23.5MM plus three free agent years for an average of $15.5MM per season. Both Reyes and Tulo had options for a second free agent year at similar money to the first.

Castro could qualify as a Super Two after the 2012 season since he spent 150 days in the Major Leagues last season, meaning he'd be arbitration-eligible four times instead of three. The three above contracts aren't a perfect comparison in that case, but it's clear that if the Cubs want to lock-up their franchise cornerstone, they'll need to spend $20MM or so for his arbitration years plus something like $12-15MM per free agent year. 

The Cubs have a ton of money coming off the books after the season in the form of Aramis Ramirez ($14.6MM), Kosuke Fukudome ($14.5MM), Carlos Silva ($11.5MM), Carlos Pena ($10MM), and John Grabow ($4.8MM), but they also have to prepare for sizable arbitration raises to Matt Garza, Geovany Soto, and Randy Wells. Locking up Castro will give them not only some cost certaintly going forward, but also peace of mind that one of the game's top young talents will be in Chicago's north side well into the future.

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28 Comments on "Extension Candidate: Starlin Castro"

4 years 4 months ago

Hard to believe we’re already talking about this. Castro is a heck of a player but I’d like to see his power develop a little bit before committing huge sums to him, not that he isn’t worth an extension. It’s said his power will come later but I’d rather not commit to paying him for it now before there’s some proof. The guy can hit but he’s not in the Tulo/Ramirez stratosphere yet.

That said, I’m not so sure yet that Wells is going to get a sizable arbitration raise other than what’s normal for his service time. He needs to repeat ’09 and not ’10 if he wants a big raise. He’ll get a good bump but not what he could get if he doesn’t come close to ’09. Soto is a guy who probably warrants talk of an extension. I’m guessing Aramis Ramirez ends up back with the Cubs next year at about half what he’s making this year depending on how well he plays in ’11. There isn’t really a good option to replace him unless Vitters takes a big leap forward. Fukudome is gone unless he takes a serious discount, even then I doubt th Cubs want him back given how he’s seen as a disappointment. The Silva salary doesn’t all belong to the Cubs. Pena’s salary is going to have to be replaced and there are a couple appealing free agents from the NL Central that the Cubs will have to consider.

So in all the Cubs do have a lot of money coming off the books but they’ve also got holes to fill and young players to lock up, it’s not like they’ll be rolling in money next off season. Tough decisions.

4 years 4 months ago

“Hard to believe we’re already talking about this. Castro is a heck of a player but I’d like to see his power develop a little bit before committing huge sums to him, not that he isn’t worth an extension.”

I agree. I’d like to see his D improve, too. After tonight, his jaw is feeling the same.

“The Silva salary doesn’t all belong to the Cubs.”

The Cubs owe Silva’s 11.5MM. The M’s pick up Silva’s 2MM buyout.

“Soto is a guy who probably warrants talk of an extension.”

Maybe. If Castillo (currently with a messed up index finger) progresses well this year, I would not mind the Cubs getting proactive and see what Soto brings after this year. I’m not saying they should trade Soto, but a Soto deal could fix a couple Cub holes.

4 years 4 months ago

Whoops! Had it wrong. The Cubs pick up Silva’s buyout.

4 years 4 months ago

Castro doesn’t belong in a discussion with Hanley, Tulo or Reyes

4 years 4 months ago

the numbers after the same time frame suggest your opinion is wrong.

4 years 4 months ago

Castro has no power or speed. All of these comparables have at least one or the other.

If you wanted to trade me your 22-year-old Hanley Ramirez for my 22-year-old Starlin Castro I’d do it every time.

Baseball history is littered with players who flashed a high batting average during a partial season before flaming out. Castro has a lot to prove before he should be mentioned with these players. It says here that he will never reach their class.

4 years 4 months ago

That’s pretty funny. The thing that stood out with the Hanley, Tulo & Reyes trio is their gawdy tools. One guy has elite speed, becomes baseball’s most feared base thief, while the others possess the homerun power that is one of baseball’s biggest scarcities considering where they provide it. Castro is a good hitter with even more potential so his age would suggest, but at this time (3hr – 10sb in ’10) his numbers aren’t on par with those guys above after their first full seasons. I have a hard time envisioning Castro becoming any of those guys’ equal. A .300 average is very nice, but without the power & sb’s and even walks, his value at this point is somewhat limited (2-win).

Reyes wasn’t 60-sb Reyes till his age 22 season, and his bat didn’t explode until the following year. Hanley & Tulo’s debut’s were exciting, so much so that instantly they became one of baseball’s most sought after and most highly regarding players. Castro has to have one monster 2011 to be in that kind of discussion.

Who are the most often used Castro comps? You’d think he was the next Barry Larkin. A .300 hitter with 10 hr’s & 30 sb’s annually is a nice return for the position, but it seems like he’s bound to be over-valued for these next several years. Not saying he’s the next Neifi Perez, but something between those two guys is where I think Castro will fall.

4 years 4 months ago

He does if you look at his career compared to their careers through their first 132 games, as noted above.

4 years 4 months ago

i suspect his point is that castro’s projection is not comparable to those players. tulowitzki and ramirez were & are power shortstops with large physical frames

if you look at first seasons, the differences are clearer:

castro – .300/.347/.408 – .325 wOBA (125 games)
reyes – .273/.300/.386 – .308 wOBA (160 games)
ramirez – .292/.353/.480 – .364 wOBA (158 games)
tulowitzki – .291/.359/.479 – .361 wOBA (155 games)

reyes is a fair comparison i think

4 years 4 months ago

How old was each player their first year? There’s a big difference there.

4 years 4 months ago

Also don’t forget Castro was helped by a .346 BABIP which drives almost his entire stat line since he doesn’t have the powers of the others. Maybe he is just the type who can keep a really high BABIP but maybe he is really more of a .280 hitter like his base stats suggest in which case his line looks a lot less special.

4 years 4 months ago

Yes, that’s true, but consider his age as well. How lucky would he have to be for a 20 year old to also have an unusually high BABIP? Too early to tell but if he were 30 years old we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

4 years 4 months ago

castro – 20
reyes – 20
ramirez – 22
tulowitzki – 22

not sure i’d call that a big difference. in ramirez’s case maybe, it meant 2 extra years of pro ball in the minors. but tulowitzki actually only had one year in the minors to reyes’ & castro’s 2. more to my point:

tulo – 6’3 215
ramirez – 6’3 230
reyes – 6’1 200
castro – 6’0 190

does that mean he won’t develop significant power? not necessarily. but unless we can forecast a growth spurt, it probably does mean his projected future power ceiling is quite a bit lower. there is an 80 point ISO desparity between first-year reyes/castro and first-year tulo/hanley. has reyes developed any power of significance since then?

4 years 4 months ago

True but my point was that he’s a comparable but whether or not the Cubs should lock him up now is dependent on his power. If they can lock him up team friendly, sure, but don’t lock him up on a Tulo/Ramirez basis until you see the power. He’s younger than the others so there is still time for that to come.

4 years 4 months ago

Except that Reyes steals bases.

4 years 4 months ago

It is hard not to think in a fantasy sort of mind set, but the other three guys either gave you the SBs or the HRs. So far Starlin hasn’t excelled in either category. That said, I am a Cub fan, and he is one of the brightest spots on the team in a long time. I hope that he is manning the shortstop position in Wrigley for a long time!

4 years 4 months ago

If that is the case, then it would be smart for the Cubs to lock him up to an extension around Reyes’. If the power comes then they are just getting more value.

Of course I think this is a little early to be thinking about an extension/locking up arb years. If they wait until after the year the cubs can have a bigger sample size to find out where they think his projected numbers really lie.

4 years 4 months ago

Maybe they’ll trade him to the Cardinals for a Brolio type player

4 years 4 months ago

WTF is Brolio? I know of a Broglio though.

4 years 4 months ago

I think they should wait at least until after this season befor they think of extending him. If Soto can prove he can catch 130-140 games and hit as well as he has in the last 2 years then I would certainly want to extend him first before worrying about Castro.

4 years 4 months ago

As far as an extension keep in mind he is very raw defensively, he makes horrible decisions and tonight he missed a throw at 2B on a stolen base attempt by so much that the ball hit him in the face, that is hard to do even in little league.

4 years 4 months ago

Yeah, this is a little premature. I still need to see his defense improve and some power develop before I’d sink long-term $$ into Castro. But he’s one of the few young players the Cubs actually have that could develop into a perennial all-star.

As to the ball that hit him in the face tonight, to be fair, he slipped and that’s why his glove dropped and the ball wasn’t caught. It was a freak thing and had nothing to do with his defense.

As for the arbitration raises, yes, Soto and Garza could get sizable raises, but I’d let Wells go rather than pay him a lot of money. His ceiling is a 5th starter, nothing more.

4 years 4 months ago

“As to the ball that hit him in the face tonight, to be fair, he slipped and that’s why his glove dropped and the ball wasn’t caught. It was a freak thing and had nothing to do with his defense. ”

You are being generous imo, he didn’t slip he just completely misjudged it and 99% of MI in baseball make this play but he missed it so badly that it hit him in the face. This is one of the worst fielding IF I’ve ever seen and that is coming from a Brewer fan who has seen more than his fair share of bad fielders. There of course is room to grow but give him some time to make sure he does improve before extending him. There isn’t a big hurry.

4 years 4 months ago

All I can say is I watched him play the Reds at Cashman Field in Las Vegas this year and he hit a bullet of a home run to straight center field that cleared the wall and the rocks that were 400 plus feet away.

4 years 4 months ago

The idea of extending Castro is going to come up because its the “in” thing to do right now. In reality he is still a raw defender with flashes of brilliance. He just turned 21. And he is still under team control for a long time. Plus the money has to fit and the writer seems to think that there is a lot of money coming off the books that isnt actually coming off.

Ramirez has a team option for 16M with a 2M buyout. He isnt worth 16M but he is the best 3B that would be on the market. Bringing him back on a 2 yr deal at about 11M or so per year seems about right considering they have no one ready to step in and take over that spot unless they make a trade and eventually they will run out of tradeable parts. The reason why i say 2 years for him is look who becomes FA after 2013 David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman, Mark Reynolds, and Kevin Youkilis.

Pena coming off is only like gaining 5M cause 5M was deferred to next year.

Kosuke and Grabow along with Silva add up to just under 31M. Not sure the status of the payment of 5.5M from Seattle since they released Silva. Then you have to take from that Dempsters Player Op. at 14M for 2012.

So if you figure for Silva, Grabow, Kosuke, Half of Pena and Ramirez you get 51M. Take away from that 14M for Dempster and say around 11-12M to resign Ramirez and youre back at 24-25M not including arb raises or anything else.

And finally you have to figure that if he makes it to FA the Cubs #1 target is going to be Pujols. If he gets his 30M a year then there really isnt money left to do an extension right now. Perhaps after next year when Z, Dempster, Byrd and the other half of Pena come off the books to a tune of 43.5M

4 years 4 months ago

Dempster didn’t play for free this year, he played for 13.5M. So if he picks up his option that’s a 500K increase in salary, not 14M. So if the rest of your numbers are correct that would leave the cubs with 50.5M before resigning Ramirez. And quite honestly, I don’t think Ramirez returning is a foregone conclusion. Ramirez plays a decent 3rd base but has had the luxury of a good defensive first baseman for some time now. He hasn’t gone first to third on a base hit since he was 11 (and I’m hoping it’s been that recent) and the older he gets the more time he seems to miss with injury. But hey, Hendry loves “his” guys so we’ll see.

As far as Castro, I’m with the majority here. Let the kid develop a little bit more and see what materializes with his power stroke and base running. I don’t have any problem with paying a guy that hits a ton of doubles and swipes bags 30 times a year if the power doesn’t come. I don’t hear anybody mention it, but let’s also see how he handles success from a maturity standpoint. So far so good, but again, he’s still 21.

4 years 4 months ago

I think it’s too early to be talking about this. He is under team control for a while still.

4 years 4 months ago

As bad as Aramis Ramirez is he needs to have a good first half so the Cubs get something in value for him before the deadline.. Everyone knows the Cubs are going nowhere anytime soon Ramirez has to go by the deadline