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Starlin Castro Rumors
Chicago has long been rumored to be considering a move involving the up-and-down 25-year-old infielder. Castro was told yesterday by manager Joe Maddon that he did not need to worry about being dealt, but as Bruce Levine of CBSChicago.com reported, it was never clear that Maddon’s words were meant as any kind of assurance going forward.
It has previously been reported that the Cubs discussed Castro with teams like the Phillies and, more recently, the Padres. Chicago is reportedly looking hard at adding pitching, with at least some interest in more controllable pieces (such as Tyson Ross), though it’s unclear at present where the team is most focused in its efforts to strike a deal.
It’s also somewhat hard to read how other teams will value the still-young, up-the-middle player. At times, his contract — which has four years and $38MM left after this year (plus an option) — has looked like an asset. But now that he’s in the midst of a second disappointing campaign in the last three years (.237/.271/.305 over 406 plate appearances in 2015), that deal looks more like a reasonable risk than a great value.
8:57pm: In their conversations with the Padres, the Cubs have been focused on Ross, per a Rosenthal tweet. As he notes, that isn’t exactly surprising. The 28-year-old has been rather excellent dating back to 2013, and comes with two more seasons of control. There’s a good argument to be made that his contract is the organization’s single most valuable asset.
As Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported earlier today, a wide variety of teams have interest in Ross, including the Blue Jays, Astros, Dodgers, and Rangers.
8:02pm: Whatever other talks the teams may have had, Chicago is not making a run at Shields, Buster Olney of ESPN.com tweets.
7:35pm: The Cubs have had discussions with the Padres regarding shortstop Starlin Castro, Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports report on Twitter. San Diego does not look like a traditional buyer, but as noted in MLBTR’s overview of the shortstop trade market, the team makes sense as a future-oriented acquirer at the position.
Castro is still just 25, though he’s playing in his sixth big league season. He is owed $37MM over the next four seasons and can be controlled with a $16MM option in 2020 ($1MM buyout).
That contract once looked like an asset, but after a second rough campaign in three years, it looks more like a reasonable risk. Castro owns a .233/.268/.302 slash over 399 plate appearances, which falls well below his roughly league-average career output. He’s generally regarded as a mediocre defender at short, and metrics suggest he’s slightly to firmly below average in that department.
It’s not clear what kind of deal would be considered, but San Diego has a number of players who could hold appeal to the Cubs. Morosi suggests the possibility of a swap of James Shields, which holds at least some plausibility (as a starting point, at least) since both are owed significant future money and could arguably be better fits for the current needs of the other club. But he gave no indication that there is anything to that idea other than his own analysis.
Looking at the San Diego roster for other pieces that could be intriguing to the Cubs — whether or not as part of any deal involving Castro — the rotation certainly seems the place to focus. We’ve heard plenty in the past about the need for a rotation addition in Chicago, and both Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner are younger, controllable pieces that have been mentioned as possible trade pieces. On the rental side, Ian Kennedy should hold some appeal and could also be a theoretical fit for Chicago. Outfielder Will Venable and reliever Joaquin Benoit are two more pending free agents that could make sense.
Should the Cubs make a major move, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has explained that it would likely be for a controllable piece. (Via ESPNChicago.com’s Jesse Rogers; links to Twitter.) While the team is entertaining rental options, it seems unlikely to pay a steep price to add a premium player that will hit the open market after the season.
“If we do something on the bigger end, it will involve players that will help us beyond this year,” said Epstein. “If we do something on the smaller side, it will probably be more for a rental. And if we do nothing, it will be because we couldn’t find anything rational that we could actually do.”
As for as larger possible moves go, we’ve heard the Cubs linked to Cole Hamels of the Phillies at various times. Per Morosi, via Twitter, the team is only on the “periphery” of the Hamels market at present.
“This isn’t do-or-die for us,” says GM Ruben Amaro Jr. “In the end, it’s about, ‘What is the return?’ and, ‘Is this the right return?’ If it is, we’ll move forward. And if it’s not, we won’t.”
There are about six clubs still in talks with Philadelphia on the club’s staff ace, per Stark. But sources from other teams indicate that they believe the Cubs, Dodgers, Red Sox, and Rangers are most likely to land him. We heard yesterday that the Astros were also still in the mix, along with Los Angeles and Texas.
Regarding the interest of the Dodgers, Stark says that Philly has asked for as many as six quality prospects in a package that would not include top youngsters Corey Seager and Julio Urias. While Los Angeles won’t give up that volume, per the report, the industry consensus is that the Dodgers are in the lead.
As for the Cubs, rival executives tell Stark that Chicago is offering a deal centered around Starlin Castro and/or Javier Baez (though it’s unclear whether both would conceivably be included together). But Philadelphia is not enthused about either player. The Red Sox, meanwhile, just sent top evaluator Allard Baird to watch Hamels throw and obviously have a stacked farm from which to deal. While they (like the Rangers) don’t really profile as a traditional buyer, Boston could still act with the future in mind.
Stark goes on to discuss some other, less likely suitors as well as the impact of the team’s upper-level front office transition on trade talks. It’s a lengthy and information-packed piece that you’ll want to read in full for all the latest on Hamels.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia is obviously also listening to offers for closer Jonathan Papelbon. According to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (on Twitter), however, the Phillies are having trouble gaining “traction” on a deal. Papelbon’s $13MM option for next year, which is all but certain to vest at this point, “remains a sticking point,” per the report. Stark also adds (on Twitter) that, despite prior interest, the Blue Jays, Cubs, and Dodgers are not presently involved with talks regarding the reliever.
Meanwhile, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com provides an update on veteran second baseman Chase Utley, who says he is progressing as he works his way back from a sprained right ankle. As Salisbury notes, Utley could profile as an August trade piece if he can return to health and show increased productivity. While Philadelphia rebuffed the Dodgers and Marlins last winter when they asked about Utley, explaining that he was not interested in waiving his no-trade protection, Salisbury says that the 36-year-old “seems to have softened his position” on being dealt since that time.
Earlier today, Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago appeared with host Jeff Todd on this week’s edition of the MLBTR Podcast, and the two discussed a variety of Cubs topics, from the Welington Castillo trade to Starlin Castro and the team’s rotation. For Cubs fans (and others) who have already checked that out, though, here are a few more notes on the team that sits four games back in the NL Central and currently leads the Padres 3-0…
- Infielder Javier Baez has hit well at Triple-A this season, posting a .296/.375/.423 batting line in 80 plate appearances, but there doesn’t seem to be any rush to get him back to the big leagues at this time. Via David Kaplan of CSN Chicago (on Twitter), GM Jed Hoyer said that the Cubs “…want to take our time on Javy Baez. He is playing well, but we want to let him continue to keep working right now.” Addison Russell has seen most of the time at second base, where many thought Baez would play this season. After some early struggles, Russell has settled in and is hitting .273/.333/.455 over a 22-game stretch.
- Speaking of Russell, agent Scott Boras, who represents both Russell and Kris Bryant, praised the Cubs organization prior to tonight’s game, writes Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago. Boras feels that both Bryant and Russell have “dramatically” improved since joining the team, leading him to praise the organization’s developmental techniques. Boras said that his main gripe in Spring Training was that he wanted Bryant to know that his fate wasn’t pre-determined (presumably, that is, to know that he wouldn’t be reassigned to minor league camp at the end of Spring Training). He also praised manager Joe Maddon for his communication skills and work with young players. “Joe Maddon is a talent,” said Boras. “He’s very good at giving the players a focus at a variety of levels of their careers. And that has a lot to do with why they’re performing so well in their careers.”
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports feels that the Cubs should think twice before considering a trade of Castro. Rosenthal spoke to a number of Castro’s teammates as well as Maddon, assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske and president Theo Epstein — all of whom feel that the 25-year-old has made strides in terms of maturity, preparedness and defense this season. Rosenthal notes that with $37MM owed to Castro from 2016-19, his contract is highly affordable as well. Of course, Castro has struggled at the plate early this year, as even after a pair of singles tonight he’s hitting .272/.304/.346, which translates to a wRC+ of just 76 (24 percent worse than the league average).
It would be foolhardy for the Marlins to fire manager Mike Redmond this early in the season, opines FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal in his latest notes column. Redmond is well-respected among the industry, Rosenthal notes, and he cannot be blamed for the fact that Henderson Alvarez is injured and Mat Latos has struggled so greatly. (Latos’ diminished velocity is likely a significant culprit in that regard.) Rosenthal writes that owner Jeffrey Loria needs to realize that the unstable culture he creates by cycling through managers so willingly is part of the problem in Miami.
A few more notes from Rosenthal’s latest column…
- In the video atop his column, Rosenthal notes that Cubs top prospect Addison Russell has begun playing some second base and may eventually get a look there in the Majors. However, because he is their best defensive shortstop, Russell may eventually push Starlin Castro to third base and Kris Bryant to the outfield, or his arrival may lead to a trade of Castro.
- Rosenthal writes about former Mets GM Omar Minaya’s decision to draft Matt Harvey with the seventh pick in the 2010 draft. The team had been deciding between Harvey and Chris Sale, but the Mets, like many other clubs, had some reservations about whether or not Sale would last as a starter. Minaya became convinced of Harvey after watching him in an April start at the University of Miami, though as Rosenthal notes, others in the front office/scouting department, including Marlin McPhail, Rudy Terrasas and Bryan Lambe all played large roles as well. Interestingly, Rosenthal adds that the White Sox were thrilled to get Chris Sale at No. 13, as they feared the Royals would select him fifth overall. Kansas City instead selected Cal State Fulelrton infielder Christian Colon.
- Delmon Young told the Orioles that he wanted to regain some of his lost athleticism, and so the team had him work extensively with outfielder-turned-executive Brady Anderson in Spring Training. Young was the first to the clubhouse every day during Spring Training and is now has the fastest 10-yard dash time on the Orioles, per manager Buck Showalter. Rosenthal also notes that Everth Cabrera told the O’s that he knew advanced metrics pegged him as a below-average defender, and he expressed an interest in improving in that area. Baltimore is working with Cabrera to correct a tendency to retreat with his hands and “baby” the ball, as Rosenthal put it.
- The White Sox weren’t as successful in upgrading their catching position as they’d have liked, but for the time being, they’re content with Tyler Flowers and Geovany Soto. Rosenthal notes that while Welington Castillo is widely believed to be available, the Sox and Cubs rarely make trades.
Full Story | 78 Comments | Categories: Addison Russell | Baltimore Orioles | Chicago Cubs | Chicago White Sox | Chris Sale | Christian Colon | Delmon Young | Everth Cabrera | Geovany Soto | Kansas City Royals | Lance Lynn | Matt Harvey | Miami Marlins | Mike Redmond | New York Mets | Starlin Castro | Tyler Flowers | Welington Castillo
The Padres expressed some mild interest in Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon earlier in the offseason, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. Obviously, San Diego no longer looks like an even hypothetical landing spot for Papelbon. It seems likely that Papelbon’s greatest appeal will ultimately lie with a club that suffers an injury or wants a chance to add late-inning depth over the summer.
Here’s more from the National League:
- With the Padres having taken on significant salary commitments and given up young talent to acquire Craig Kimbrel from the Braves, reactions to the move have been divided somewhat between front office and uniformed personnel, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney writes (Insider link). Atlanta has the backing of most executives, says Olney, while players and coaches have understandably focused on the impact that Kimbrel could have in San Diego.
- The Padres received immediate trade interest in their bullpen after adding Kimbrel, as Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. “Within minutes, probably, of the (Kimbrel) deal, four or five teams have checked in,” said GM A.J. Preller. “So that’s part of making the deal. Hopefully, you add depth and it may help us in another area down the road.” Of course, that depth could be put to use either to fill in the pen or to shore up another area of need via trade.
- The shortstop position is an obvious area to watch for the Cubs, but Olney says (in the above-linked piece) that it may not all be positive. Starlin Castro has proven he can hit, but Olney says there are real concerns about how committed he is to grinding things out on defense. Chicago informed other teams this winter that it was open to trade scenarios involving the 25-year-old.
8:32pm: Castro has been cleared of any involvement in the shooting by the Dominican General of National Police, tweets Bruce Levine of 670TheScore.com.
12:53pm: Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro’s agent, Paul Kinzer, denies reports that Castro was arrested following a shooting in the Dominican Republic, Paul Sullivan and Gregory Pratt of the Chicago Tribune write. Six people were injured in the shooting, which took place at a nightclub early Saturday morning. Kinzer says Castro went to the police station voluntarily to clear his name, but police told him they had video proof that he wasn’t involved. As Sullivan notes, it’s the second time in less than a month that Castro has had to speak to police about a shooting in the Dominican — police cleared Castro in a separate incident three weeks ago. Here are more notes from around the National League.
- The Padres‘ offseason trades have been offensive upgrades, but they’re worse defensively in the outfield, and they’ve also downgraded defensively at catcher, Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan writes for FOX Sports. Newcomers Derek Norris and Tim Federowicz are markedly worse pitch-framers than Yasmani Grandal or Rene Rivera, perhaps by as much as 20-30 runs. There is, however, still the possibility that the Padres could add a steadier framing catcher before the season starts, as their previous interest in David Ross suggests.
- Pitching coach Darren Balsley is pleased that the Padres managed to pull off their string of trades without giving up Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross or Ian Kennedy, Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. “To do that without giving up one of our top three starters, it’s pretty cool to say the least,” says Balsley. “I thought we’d lose one of them for sure.” Of course, the departure of Jesse Hahn in the Norris trade does leave the Padres without a clear fifth starter. Robbie Erlin, Josh Johnson, Casey Kelly, Cory Luebke, Brandon Morrow, Alex Torres and top pitching prospect Matt Wisler are all candidates for that spot.
The Cubs have informed other clubs Starlin Castro is not available in trade, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Heyman lists the Mets and Yankees (prior to obtaining Didi Gregorius) as teams who have been told the Cubs want to hang onto the 24-year-old All-Star shortstop. Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times tweets the Cubs have also assured Castro he will not be traded this offseason.
With a thin shortstop market and the Cubs having prospects Javier Baez and Addison Russell in the wings, Castro was a popular name for teams in need at the position. The Yankees were able to fill their shortstop vacancy by acquiring Gregorius earlier this week, but the Mets are still in the hunt for an upgrade over Wilmer Flores. Heyman, in a separate report, writes Jimmy Rollins still has not changed his stance on waiving his no-trade clause and the Phillies have relayed that position to the Mets and some other teams.
For those who need further convincing that the Marlins are serious about extending Giancarlo Stanton, president of baseball operations Michael Hill told reporters, including the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo (Twitter link), that teams aren’t even bothering to call and ask about Stanton’s availability anymore. Joel Sherman of the New York Post expands on that quote from Hill, noting that there are some indications that the team is willing to break its policy of not giving out no-trade clauses in order to lock up Stanton. Hill wouldn’t directly state that the team is willing to give Stanton a no-trade clause, but that could certainly be inferred from his comments: “It’s been an organizational policy, but you are talking about a star talent. You look at the marketplace and what other stars have gotten. It will be a topic of discussion.”
More from the NL East…
- Braves president of baseball operations John Hart tells David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he doesn’t envision an extension for Jason Heyward this offseason (Twitter links). That’s not due to a lack of interest on Atlanta’s behalf, but rather due to Heyward’s proximity to free agency. With Heyward set to hit the open market next winter, Hart said that his assumption is it’s “probably the wrong time,” though he said the team could still try to sign Heyward as a free agent.
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo acknowledged to James Wagner of the Washington Post that he’s been in contact with Asdrubal Cabrera‘s agent as the team looks at all options on the second base market (Twitter link).
- Wagner also tweets that the Nationals and right-hander Jordan Zimmermann aren’t engaged in any form of extension talks at the moment. The ace righty is slated to hit the open market next winter after pocketing a $16.5MM salary in 2015.
- Marc Carig of Newsday provides a breakdown of where the Mets are in their pursuit of a shortstop. The Mets aren’t big on the idea of multi-year deals for either Jed Lowrie or Asdrubal Cabrera, and looking to the trade market has been difficult thus far. Arizona’s asking price on Didi Gregorius is high — GM Dave Stewart said the return would need to be “earth-shattering” in terms of controllable pitching — and the Cubs haven’t given indication they’ll part with Starlin Castro. The Mets are concerned about Alexei Ramirez‘s declining range, and while they briefly floated the idea of pursuing Jimmy Rollins, that notion went nowhere when they learned that Rollins wouldn’t waive his no-trade rights to go there. A trade for Troy Tulowitzki is considered an extreme long shot, he adds.
- Matthew Cerrone of SNY.tv’s Metsblog has some highlights (and the audio) from the Mets‘ conference call announcing Michael Cuddyer‘s signing today. Within, he notes that GM Sandy Alderson admitted to being caught off guard by the Rockies’ qualifying offer, but they ultimately decided that they’d prefer to sacrifice a draft pick rather than sacrifice a current minor league prospect in a trade for an outfielder. That makes some sense, considering they figure to do so in order to acquire a shortstop at some point.
- The Phillies are willing to trade anyone, writes Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, but they may have to wait until the free agent market pans out a bit further before seeing some big deals come to fruition. If they’re able to find a taker for Ryan Howard, it may not come until big bats like Victor Martinez, Nelson Cruz and Melky Cabrera are off the market. The same could be said regarding Cole Hamels in relation to Max Scherzer, James Shields and Jon Lester; GM Ruben Amaro Jr. might find teams more willing to part with a significant prospect package when there are no longer ace-caliber alternatives in free agency.