Starlin Castro Rumors
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:
- Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer thinks the Indians can still add a couple of players to their roster, but they'll come via trades or minor league signings.
- A Twins official tells Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (via Twitter) that he doesn't see the club getting in on free agent bats Stephen Drew and Nelson Cruz. Minnesota has money to spend but the draft pick compensation that is required to sign them is an issue.
- Longtime Brewer Corey Hart took out a full-page ad in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel to thank the city for its support, Big League Stew's Mark Townsend notes. Hart is headed to Seattle after agreeing to a one-year deal with the Mariners that reportedly guarantees him $6MM.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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...
- The Cardinals met with Marco Scutaro's agent tonight, tweets Danny Knobler of CBS Sports. Scutaro is represented by Barry Praver.
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington told reporters including Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "In our minds, we’ve already made our big move with Russ." The Bucs signed Russell Martin for $17MM last week, but still have some work to do. Biertempfel notes that the Pirates have shown interest in five recently non-tendered pitchers: Manny Parra, Lannan, Tom Gorzelanny, Jair Jurrjens, and Mike Pelfrey.
- There have been no substantive talks between the Cardinals and Adam Wainwright about an extension, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Cardinals, of course, still remain interested in doing an extension with the 31-year-old before his contract season officially begins.
- Most of the quality lefty relievers are likely to be signed by week's end, suggested Cardinals GM John Mozeliak (B.J. Rains of FOX Sports Midwest reporting).
- The Cardinals and infielder Skip Schumaker are open to a trade, reports Rains, but of course it'd have to make sense for the team.
- The pressure of last summer's contract extension talks affected the performance of Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro, agent Paul Kinzer told Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com. The 22-year-old can rest easy now that he's under contract through at least 2019.
- The Cubs remain popular with free agents, president Theo Epstein told reporters including Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. The team is looking to get creative at third base and will continue to monitor the available starting pitchers (and presumably relievers). Epstein suggested the Cubs have interest in some recently non-tendered players.
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.
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.
FRIDAY, 5:58pm: Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that it would be a six or seven-year contract with a club option for one additional year. Castro is a Super Two, so the Cubs would be buying out all of four years of arbitration eligibility plus two or three free agent years. Talks continue to progress and a deal could be completed by next week.
THURSDAY, 10:58pm: Castro's agent Paul Kinzer confirmed to Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com that he has had talks with the club about a new deal. "I've been working with the Cubs on contract negotiations for a period of time," Kinzer said. "Starlin would like to be a Chicago Cub for many years to come."
8:23pm: The Cubs are working on a long-term deal with shortstop Starlin Castro, two industry sources told David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com. The deal could be for six or more years and is expected to be finalized before the end of the 2012 season.
A six-year deal would buy out Castro's remaining arbitration years and two years of free agency which he would reach after the 2016 season. Castro's agents at Wasserman Media Group are likely to look at fellow shortstops Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, and Troy Tulowitzki as possible comps for the 22-year-old.
Earlier this year, Mike Axisa estimated that the Cubs will have to spend roughly $20MM to cover his arbitration years and $12-15MM for each year of free agency. Theo Epstein & Co. have an additional year of arbitration to cover as the shortstop is likely to qualify as a Super Two.
One baseball source opined to Kaplan that the Cubs were foolish to promote the shortstop as early as they did in the 2010 season. Had they waited longer to bring Castro to the big leagues, they could have delayed the start of his service clock and prevented him from achieving Super Two status.
Castro's offensive production hasn't been as strong as it has in the previous two seasons as he's hitting .276/.307/.422 with 12 homers in 495 plate appearances. Defensively, Castro has a UZR/150 of 5.1, the best of his three campaigns.
Mike Axisa contributed to this post.
A look at news on Reds and the Cubs..
- Starlin Castro's agent, Paul Kinzer, told Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune that he planned on tabling contract talks until after the season until the Cubs approached him. The two sides are working on a new deal that would keep him in Chicago through 2018 and possibly beyond.
- Manager Dusty Baker and the Reds still have yet to have talks about a contract extension and Baker says that he doesn't expect to do so anytime soon, writes John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
- Meanwhile, team president Bob Castellini told Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com that he hopes to have Baker as a part of the Reds organization for a long time. Castellini wouldn't tip his cap as to when contract talks could get started between the two sides but indicated that the timing would likely be agreed upon mutually.
- Castro has instructed Kinzer not to give him updates on the negotiations and to only notify him when a deal is done, tweets Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com.
At least one baseball person wonders if Ryan Dempster hurt his free agent stock by agreeing to join the Rangers, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports. The American League, referred to by one general manager as "the big boy league," features some high-powered offenses that could have impact Dempster’s numbers and diminish his leverage in offseason contract talks. Here are more notes from Olney...
- The Dodgers were interested in Dempster, but they never pushed for him, Olney reports. The Dodgers didn’t want to trade from their core of good prospects and they didn’t waver when the Cubs asked about their top minor leaguers.
- Olney suggests teams like the Red Sox and Orioles could have interest in Brandon McCarthy if the Athletics place him on waivers when he returns from the disabled list.
- Before the trade deadline, the Phillies made it clear that they would not pick up any of Cliff Lee’s salary in a trade and would also want prospects in return for the left-hander. Olney suggests it’s highly unlikely Lee will be moved in a waiver deal this month.
- Starlin Castro’s name came up in conversations between the Cubs and Diamondbacks leading up to the trade deadline, Olney writes. However, both sides moved on quickly and a deal was never close.
- Olney wonders if the Nationals could pursue in Derek Lowe given their interest in adding pitching leading up to the trade deadline.