Starlin Castro Rumors

NL Central Notes: Starlin, Baez, Brewers, Cards, Price

The Cubs are receiving some trade interest in Starlin Castro but don’t expect to trade him this month, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports 1. That lines up with a tweet from Newsday’s David Lennon earlier this week, when Lennon noted that Castro isn’t expected to be dealt in 2015, and the Cubs may slide him over to third base in 2015. That would be a surprise, given the organization’s wealth of third base prospects, although such a move would clear a spot for Javier Baez.

Here’s more on the Cubs and the NL Central…

  • For what it’s worth, Baez made his first professional appearance at second base in last night’s Triple-A contest, as first noted by Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register last night (on Twitter). Getting Baez some looks at second base could also clear a path for him, though the Cubs have been wowed by the early returns on fellow top prospect Arismendy Alcantara. Suffice it to say, the Cubs’ infield depth is flat out enviable.
  • Brewers GM Doug Melvin spoke to reporters, including MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, and discussed the trade deadline. Melvin noted that he will have his ears open, but he isn’t fixated on the idea that making an acquisition is necessary for his team to reach the postseason. He cited a lack of availability of quality first basemen and the eventual returns of Tyler Thornburg and Jim Henderson when asked about perceived needs in the ‘pen and at first. Said Melvin: “If you can add, you add. But I like our team.”
  • Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was a guest on the Baseball Tonight podcast with Buster Olney today and discussed the Cardinals second-half needs. While he says the absence of Yadier Molina should be the team’s biggest issue, a quieter concern is how many innings they get from the rotation. Of the team’s current starters, only Lance Lynn and Adam Wainwright have shown the ability to pitch deep into games. Cardinals starters other than Lynn and Wainwright have averaged just 5 1/3 innings per start.
  • Goold also says the Cardinals know that at some point, they have to make some kind of move to address their outfield surplus. Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, James Ramsey and Oscar Taveras are all potential long-term pieces, and the team also has Peter Bourjos, Jon Jay and Allen Craig as center field/right field options. Dangling Grichuk, Piscotty, Ramsey and Taveras will get them in the conversation for a number of pitchers, he adds.
  • Goold thinks the Cardinals would be willing to at least discuss the possibility of sending Taveras to Tampa in a Price trade (though he doesn’t mention specific confirmation of that fact), but such a deal might be contingent on St. Louis securing an extension with Price. Talks between the two sides would be interesting, Goold notes, because the sides value players and value team control so similarly. Olney speculates that Price would be open to an extension with the Cards, noting the proximity of St. Louis to Price’s native Nashville.

Cubs Notes: Russell, Castro, Mets

The Cubs dominated headlines over the weekend by trading Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Athletics, and here’s the latest buzz around Wrigleyville…

  • James Russell‘s name was “heard very often” as a trade possibility this weekend, Peter Gammons tweets.  With Chicago in seller mode, Russell’s 2.22 ERA would definitely attract teams looking for a left-handed bullpen arm, though his 4.45 xFIP suggests he has been greatly helped by a .209 BABIP and an 82.6% strand rate this year.  Russell has also posted reverse splits this season by pitching much better against right-handed hitters, as opposed to his usual dominance over left-handed batters.  Russell, 28, is pitching on a one-year, $1.775MM contract and is arbitration-eligible for the final time this winter.  The southpaw also drew a lot of interest during last year’s trade deadline and was close to being dealt to the Braves.
  • A member of the Mets organization described Starlin Castro as “a perfect match” for their club, John Harper of the New York Daily News reports.  Addison Russell‘s acquisition makes the Cubs even deeper at shortstop and Castro seems like a logical trade candidate, while Harper feels the Mets have the young pitchers necessary to swing a deal.  Harper suggests Zack Wheeler and a minor league leaguer could interest the Cubs, though the Mets would balk at moving Wheeler and Jacob deGrom, or top prospect Noah Syndergaard.
  • Newsday’s David Lennon, however, doesn’t see the Mets rushing to acquire any major pieces this month, let alone for Castro.  In regards to the Cubs shortstop, the Mets would have issues taking on Castro’s contract and one New York official brought up Castro’s somewhat low on-base percentages as a cause for concern.
  • The Cubs’ focus on amassing position player depth in their minor league system stands contrary to the Cardinals’ long-standing strategy of developing as many young pitchers as possible, Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes.

Quick Hits: Forbes, Castro, Mets, Luhnow

The average value of a Major League Baseball franchise is now $811MM, a rise of nine percent from 2013 that can be largely attributed to an increase in TV revenue, according to Forbes Magazine's Mike Ozanian.  For the 17th straight year, the Yankees (worth $2.5 billion) top Forbes' annual valuation of baseball's franchises.  The Dodgers ($2 billion), Red Sox ($1.5 billion), Cubs ($1.2 billion) and Giants ($1 billion) also hit the ten-figure mark, while the Rays had the lowest value at $485MM.  The Mets, Marlins and Astros were the only three franchises who saw their values drop from last year's Forbes rankings.

Here's some more news from around baseball…

  • Starlin Castro says he's open to moving from shortstop to accommodate star prospect Javier Baez, CSN Chicago's David Kaplan reports.  "If I need to move positions, I'm OK with that," Castro said.  "If he is on our team and him being there helps the team win, then I am fine with that. I just want our team to win. That's it."  There had been speculation that Baez would see time at second base at Triple-A this season in preparation for a position switch of his own, though Cubs manager Rick Renteria stated that Baez would play short in the minors.  Widely considered one of baseball's top prospects, Baez has a .903 OPS in 916 minor league PA and hit even better during the Cubs' Spring Training camp this year.
  • The Mets' inability to find a trade partner for Ike Davis last winter means that the club is now in the awkward situation of finding playing time for both Davis and Lucas Duda at first base, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes.  Neither left-handed slugger hits southpaws well, so while Josh Satin will start against lefties, Davis and Duda will have to divvy up the starts against right-handers.
  • Astros manager Bo Porter said today that the club's top waiver claim priority was keeping them from finalizing the rotation, and general manager Jeff Luhnow went into more detail with reporters (including Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle) about his team's examination of the waiver wire.  "I will tell you that these days we’re meeting every day at least once…probably twice, and we get input from the staff and do our research," Luhnow said.  “This is the time of year with clubs setting their 25-man roster in the next couple days that every other guy that’s out of options comes available, and we’re going to look at it seriously because it’s a way that we can fill the team.”
  • The Rangers, Athletics, Rockies, Angels and Diamondbacks all made notable moves this offseason that could prove to be mistakes within a few seasons or even in 2014, opines ESPN's Jim Bowden (Insider subscription required).  Colorado might've broken even in Bowden's eyes, though, since the Rockies are also on the good end of one of those "backfire" transactions.
  • When a number of scouts, managers and other baseball personnel were asked “Were there any young players you watched and said, ‘this guy has a chance to be a star?’” by Peter Gammons, the name most often cited was Carlos Correa.  The Astros shortstop headlines the top 10 list, though Cubs fans will be excited to know that Kris Bryant, Baez and Albert Almora all cracked the top seven.


Central Notes: Castro, Indians, Twins, Hart

Starlin Castro claims that stress related to an ongoing legal dispute in the Dominican Republic has affected his on-field performance for the Cubs, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports. A coach at a baseball school in the Dominican is suing Castro, contending that a contract the shortstop's father signed when Castro was an amateur entitles the academy to a portion of his Major League earnings. The affair has had a "direct impact on his duties as a professional ballplayer, leading to one of his worst-ever statistical performances," Castro's countersuit states. While the 23-year-old played in 161 games last season, 2013 saw him slump to a .245/.284/.347 line. The 2014 season will be the second of the seven-year, $60MM deal Castro signed inked with the Cubs in 2012. Here's more from around baseball's Central divisions:

 Zach Links contributed to this post.

 


Quick Hits: Castro, Cubs, Balfour, Phillies, Yankees

Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro is fighting to prevent millions of dollars from being seized from his bank accounts, Juan Perez Jr. and Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune report. When Castro was 16, his father allegedly signed a contract promising three percent of Castro's big-league earnings to a baseball academy in the Dominican. When Castro signed his $60MM contract in 2012, the academy claimed Castro owed it $1.8MM. Dominican law states that twice that figure be frozen until the matter is resolved, so Dominican authorities have frozen $3.6MM. Castro's lawyers, meanwhile, are fighting for that $3.6MM to be unfrozen, and they're also asking for $5MM in damages. They claim that the academy did not have the right to percentage of Castro's extension. Castro was just 16 when the agreement was with the academy was reached, and he signed the big contract with the Cubs after he turned 18. Castro's father didn't have the right to sign away his earnings past age 18, Castro's attorneys argue. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • There were high expectations for Theo Epstein when he became president of the Cubs, and Andy MacPhail faced similar expectations two decades ago, CSNChicago.com's Patrick Mooney reports. MacPhail served as president and CEO of the Cubs from 1994 through 2006. Like Epstein, he preceded his tenure in Chicago by winning two World Series titles as a general manager (with the Twins). Like Epstein, MacPhail planned the Cubs' resurgence around young talent, although it didn't work perfectly in MacPhail's case, partly because of the Cubs' struggles to keep pitchers like Kerry Wood and Mark Prior healthy. "We weren’t the luckiest birds in the world, health-wise, with our starting pitchers. But most people forget – I think we had a better won-loss record in ’04 (89-73) than we did ’03 (88-74). So we were kind of building towards it," MacPhail says.
  • Grant Balfour says he told Orioles executive Dan Duquette what he thinks about the O's backing out of his two-year deal with them, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. "I called Dan Duquette and told him, 'I’ve played in this league for 10 years, I deserve to be treated with respect and you did not treat me with respect.'" Balfour says. "'Two well respected physicians said I am completely healthy – because I am healthy. I’m a fighter and a winner and I would have given you your best chance to win.'"
  • Jonathan Papelbon and Ruben Amaro Jr. "deserve each other," the Inquirer's Matt Gelb writes. Papelbon has been "surly" about his tenure with the Phillies, and Amaro has been defiant about the Phillies' outlook. The Phillies are trying to trade Papelbon, but they may be stuck, not only because of Papelbon's declining velocity and peripherals, but also because general managers aren't as keen as they once were on spending tens of millions of dollars on closers.
  • The Yankees' additions of switch-hitters Carlos Beltran and Brian Roberts should help balance their lineup, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. "We were too left-handed last year and [because of injury, in particular] too easy to navigate through at times," says manager Joe Girardi. "I think the switch-hitters make it tougher for the opposing manager." Beltran himself actually hit far better from the left side (.315/.362/.509) than the right side (.252/.281/.448) in 2013, although he's hit only slightly better as a lefty than as a righty for his career.

NL Central Notes: Cubs, Pirates, Brewers, Hart

After passing along several updates from out of the NL East and NL West, we'll turn to the National League's third division, as Monday winds down…

  • According to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (Twitter link), the Cubs have received inquiries about Starlin Castro's availability, but have no intention of trading him. "We're excited to have Starlin," said GM Jed Hoyer.
  • Hoyer hasn't ruled out the possibility of the Cubs trading a top prospect, telling reporters, including Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com (Twitter link), that they "would certainly consider it" if it made sense for the club's long-term future.
  • Discussing potential free agent additions, GM Neal Huntington said today that it's very unlikely the Pirates would sign a player that required giving up draft pick compensation, and confirmed that Pittsburgh won't be in on Masahiro Tanaka if he's posted (Twitter links via Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review).
  • The Pirates plan to fill their hole in right field internally, but are keeping an eye out for a starting pitcher, a middle infielder, and another bat (likely a first baseman), according to Huntington (Twitter link via Sawchik).
  • Adam Rubin of ESPN New York (Twitter link) continues to hear that the Brewers' preference is to re-sign Corey Hart, assuming the money doesn't rise out of their price range. In that case, the Mets would have to look elsewhere for an Ike Davis trade partner.

Quick Hits: Cubs, Hudson, Hamilton

Cubs manager Dale Sveum is upset with his team's recent play and says that players who don't perform won't have big-league jobs, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun Times reports. That goes for top young players Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. "I don’t think [anyone’s] invincible if you’re not performing," Sveum says regarding Castro and Rizzo. "It’s not about what we think can happen three or four years from now. It’s time to perform on a consistent basis."

Wittenmyer writes that Sveum's harsh words for Castro and Rizzo "threw a sudden dose of skepticism and doubt into the widespread assumptions about the Cubs’ core," but acknowledges that, in reality, Castro and Rizzo will be with the Cubs for the foreseeable future. Sveum is suggesting they might be demoted, but that seems extremely unlikely, and it's even less likely that either of them would be traded. The Cubs signed Castro to a seven-year, $60MM contract last August. Rizzo is not signed to a long-term deal. Both players have hit well this season despite occasional mistakes in the field. Here are more notes from around the majors.

  • John Poloni — also known as the "fat scout" in Michael Lewis' Moneyball – lobbied for the Athletics to draft Tim Hudson in 1997, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Hudson wasn't regarded as a top draft prospect due to his size, but Poloni told the A's that Hudson had "the best sinker he'd ever seen." 16 years later, Hudson is nearing his 200th win in the big leagues. That doesn't mean Poloni is rushing to take credit, however. "He exceeded my expectations, too," Poloni says. "A lot of times, it's pure luck."
  • Last offseason's big-ticket free agents haven't performed well so far, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Rick Hummel. One of the highest-profile disappointments thus far has probably been Josh Hamilton of the Angels, although it's still early enough in the season that one big series could make any player's statistics look considerably better.

Cubs, Diamondbacks Discussed Justin Upton

The Cubs and the Diamondbacks recently discussed the feasibility of a trade involving right fielder Justin Upton, two major league sources told Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com.  According to both sources, the Diamondbacks asked for two-time All-Star Starlin Castro in return for Upton and were rebuffed.  Theo Epstein & Co. decided that the asking price was too high and cut off talks.

Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers has an obvious surplus of talent in the outfield but he has made it clear that he wants quality in return for Upton, Jason Kubel, or anyone else.  Meanwhile, the asking price for Upton may not be the only hurdle to overcome in a deal involving the Cubs.  The Cubs are on the 25-year-old’s no-trade list, along with the Blue Jays, Red Sox, and Mariners.  Upton invoked his limited no trade privileges in order to block a deal to Seattle earlier this winter.

Upton has three years remaining on his deal and is owed $38MM over that span.  Despite the lofty price tag that Towers has put on Upton, the club is still reportedly intent on moving him.


Latest From The NL Central

A few NL Central free agent targets were identified today, as the Brewers and Cubs are in on Jason Grilli among other relievers, the Pirates have expressed interest in John Lannan, and the Cardinals are in the mix for Scott Hairston.  More from the division…

Earlier updates:


Cubs Extend Starlin Castro

The Cubs have signed Starlin Castro to a contract extension that will keep the 22-year-old shortstop under contract for the remainder of his 20s. The team officially announced a seven-year extension that covers Castro's four arbitration seasons and at least three seasons of free agent eligibility. Paul Kinzer of Wasserman Media Group represents Castro, whose seven-year deal includes $60MM in guaranteed money.

Starlin Castro - Cubs (PW)

Castro has posted a .276/.311/.418 batting line with 12 homers in 540 plate appearances this season. Despite his youth, he already has three full seasons of MLB experience and was on track to go to arbitration for the first time this offseason. As a super two player, he has four seasons of arbitration eligibility.

The deal locks Castro up through 2019, which means he and prospects Jorge Soler and Gerardo Concepcion are the only Cubs players under contract beyond 2014. Soler's nine-year, $30MM contract extends through 2020 and Concepcion's five-year, $6MM contract extends through 2016.

Castro will receive a $6MM signing bonus before earning $5MM in 2013 and 2014, $6MM in 2015, $7MM in 2016, $9MM in 2017, $10MM in 2018 and $11MM in 2019, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). If Castro finishes in the top five of the MVP voting twice over the life of his contract, his 2019 salary and the value of his $16MM option will each increase by $2MM. All told, the maximum value of his contract including escalators would be $79MM over eight years. 

The eighth-year option includes a $1MM buyout that is part of the $60MM guarantee, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). The deal doesn't include a no-trade clause, Heyman reports (on Twitter).

 Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com first reported that the sides reached an agreement after David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com first reported that the two sides were working on a long-term deal. Post by Ben Nicholson-Smith with Zach Links and Steve Adams. Photo courtesy of US Presswire.