Starlin Castro Rumors

Castro Won’t Talk Long-Term Deal During Season

Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro is off to a fine start this season and is likely in position to start talking about a long-term deal with the club.  However, agent Paul Kinzer told Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune that he won’t seek a new contract for his client during the season.

Maybe after the season, but I’m not really interested during the season to talk about it,” Kinzer said. “I don’t want any distractions.

Kinzer went on to say that Castro enjoys playing in Chicago and expects to talk with the club eventually about a long-term pact.  As it stands now, the All-Star will become eligible for arbitration after this season and is in line for free agency after the 2016 campaign.  The 22-year-old has Super Two status, giving him an additional year of arbitration eligibility.


Cubs Rumors: Zambrano, Pena, Lopez

Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune has several Cubs issues packed into his latest article. Here are the highlights:

  • After meeting with new president Theo Epstein, Carlos Zambrano has told friends he thinks he will remain a Cub in 2012. Sullivan writes that Zambrano will still have to convince both new and pre-existing front office members that he's serious about making amends with his teammates.
  • Epstein praised Carlos Pena and said that the club's arbitration offer by no means shuts the door on Pena's time with the team. Epstein expects Pena to decline arbitration but will continue discussions to bring him back. "He'd be an asset to the Cubs or any team," said Epstein of Pena.
  • The Cubs have interest in bringing back Rodrigo Lopez as rotation depth.
  • Starlin Castro won't be moved from shortstop in the near future for defensive reasons. Epstein feels defense is one area players can "absolutely, 100 percent get better with hard work."
  • New manager Dale Sveum may bring in Dave McKay, a longtime coaching associate of Tony La Russa, as a coach.
  • The Cubs made former big league pitcher John Koronka a regional scout in charge of Florida. Koronka , 31, last pitched for the Marlins in 2009.

Epstein, Hoyer, Cubs Links: Saturday

The Red Sox officially announced last night that GM Theo Epstein had resigned from his position to take over as the the Cubs president of baseball operations. Both teams will hold press conferences on Tuesday; the Cubs to introduce Epstein, and the Sox to likely announce that Ben Cherington is taking over as GM. The two sides have "reached an agreement regarding a process by which appropriate compensation will be determined" and the issue will be "resolved in the near term."

Meanwhile, the Padres have officially granted the Cubs permission to speak to GM Jed Hoyer and assistant GM Jason McLeod. San Diego has already agreed to a list of players from which they will choose their compensation package. Former Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes is expected to replace Hoyer after the World Series, and the Cubs will not raid the Padres' front office any further. As news trickles in about the three-way GM carousel, we'll keep track of it all right here, with the latest up top…

  • Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe cautions Red Sox fans not to expect a "windfall" in exchange for Epstein. Abraham expects Boston to receive two or three prospects, or one prospect and a complementary Major Leaguer like Jeff Baker.
  • Dan Hayes of The North County Times says (on Twitter) we're unlikely the learn the full list of players the Padres can choose from, but a source confirmed that Starlin Castro and Andrew Cashner are not on it. That's not surprising, the Padres are expected to receive minor leaguers in exchange for letting Hoyer and McLeod leave.
  • In a pair of tweets, WEEI.com's Alex Speier notes that because he is coming in as an outsider, Epstein is likely to value the Cubs' prospects differently than those already in the organization. That could lead to a swift resolution of the Cubs-Red Sox compensation talks.
  • ESPN's Buster Olney points out (on Twitter) that Epstein will cost the Cubs about the same as what Alfonso Soriano makes per month. He calls it a "huge per-dollar talent grab" for the north siders.
  • With a handful of front-office types and a manager changing teams this offseason despite being under contract, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wonders whether the Red Sox could seek another team's manager to be their next skipper (Twitter).


NL Central Notes: Brewers, Braun, Castro

Every club but the Astros is within two games of first place in the NL Central, where Joey Votto is following his MVP season up with a phenomenal start. Here's the latest from baseball's biggest division…

  • The Brewers have signed infielders Hainley Statia and Angel Gonzalez to minor league deals and assigned them to extended Spring Training, according to MLB.com's Adam McCalvy (on Twitter).
  • Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. told McCalvy that he was pleased to see Ryan Braun sign long-term in Milwaukee, where he is under contract through 2020. Ripken, of course, spent his entire 21-year career with the Orioles.
  • Starlin Castro committed three errors in one inning yesterday, but as Yahoo's Jeff Passan explains, the 21-year-old shortstop has overcome bigger obstacles than that. Before he signed with the Cubs, Castro's father took him out on a fishing boat in the Dominican Republic and gave him a taste of a life he might have known if he hadn't become a pro ballplayer.

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.


Olney On Castro, Escobar, Wells, Pineda

The Red Sox should complete a seven-year extension worth $154MM or so with Adrian Gonzalez at some point in the next ten days, as ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reminds us. On a lighter note, Olney points out that Boston appears to be functioning despite a winless week for the Red Sox. Here are the rest of Olney’s rumors.

  • Starlin Castro has “made the adjustment” to the big leagues and is no longer phased to be playing at the highest level, Cubs GM Jim Hendry says. 
  • Another young shortstop, Alcides Escobar of the Royals, may be the best defensive shortstop in the American League, according to at least one scout. 
  • Angels fans may not like hearing it, but one evaluator says that in sending Mike Napoli elsewhere they “traded a player who would've given them similar production to what they'll get out of Vernon Wells , except it'll cost them about $75 million more." 
  • Instead of delaying Michael Pineda’s service time and/or arbitration, the Mariners called him up to start the season in Seattle. "He earned the right to be on the club," GM Jack Zduriencik said. "We actually talked about calling him up last September."

Olney On Astros, Castro, Dodgers

ESPN.com's Buster Olney is not buying Boston's slow start, though no World Series winner has ever opened the season with four consecutive losses. Another 0-4 team, the Rays, entered the year with a fragile equation for success and may be more vulnerable than their struggling division rivals, Olney says. Here are more rumblings from around baseball:

  • Rival scouts don’t see much MLB caliber hitting on the Astros other than Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn and Carlos Lee. The over/under for Astros wins in 2011 should be 60, according to one scout. Houston won 76 games last year and has a solid rotation, so I'll take the over on that one.
  • A couple of years ago, Cubs GM Jim Hendry described Starlin Castro as someone who could remind us of Edgar Renteria. The 21-year-old shortstop already has 10 hits this season and could become one of the top shortstops in baseball.
  • The Dodgers are paying some deferred money this year, but Olney points out that their payroll has dropped from $118MM to $92MM since 2008. Owner Frank McCourt is trying to come up with $200MM to maintain the rights to the franchise.

Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Konerko, Jeter, Lee, Beltre

On this date back in 1974, Catfish Hunter met with Oakland A's owner Charles Finley and Peter Seitz of the American Arbitration Association in New York after the team failed to make a $50,000 payment into a long-term annuity fund. The right-hander claimed that his contract had been violated, and Seitz eventually ruled in his favor. Hunter became the first big name free agent in baseball history, later signing a five-year, $3.5MM contract with the Yankees that made him the highest-paid player in baseball history.

Here's a helping of links that go well with Thanksgiving leftovers…

If you have a suggestion for this feature, Mike can be reached here.


Will Fontenot Become Trade Bait For Cubs?

Second baseman Mike Fontenot may not fit in with the Cubs' long-term plans if Starlin Castro lives up to expectations, writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.  Castro has knocked Fontenot out of the starting lineup as he has taken over at shortstop with Ryan Theriot taking over at second.

Even though Fontenot has been sent to the bench, he has been decent offensively with an OPS+ of 96.  In 80 plate appearances, the soon-to-be 30-year-old is hitting .315/.363/.397, a slash line that is a significant step-up from his posting in 2009.   For his career, he has a 10.7 UZR/150 at his preferred position.

Fontenot is set to earn $1MM this season after avoiding arbitration with the Cubs this winter.  He became arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career when he was awarded Super Two status in November of 2009.


Odds & Ends: Pirates, Astros, Castro, Crawford

Let's start this Friday off with some links…

  • Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com feels that Neal Huntington's rebuilding plan has yet to yield results. 
  • Olney tweets that rival executives feel that both Oswalt and Lance Berkman would have trade value, but only if Houston was willing to eat a lot of money and accept secondary prospects in return. Yesterday we learned that Berkman would be willing to waive his no-trade clause.
  • SI.com's Melissa Segura hears that MLB will announce a pilot program that will allow international amateurs to register before the July 2nd signing period begins, which should streamline age investigations and signings (link goes to Twitter).
  • Meanwhile, MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez chatted with MLB's Dominican office consultant Sandy Alderson about what he hopes to achieve regarding how he hopes to improve the international market.
  • ESPN's Enrique Rojas tweets that the Cubs have called up top shortstop prospect Starlin Castro. The 20-year-old was rated as the 16th best prospect in the game by Baseball America prior to the season, and was hitting .376/.421/.569 in 121 Double-A plate appearances. Chicago has already pushed his free agency back a year, but he can still qualify as a Super Two after 2012.
  • Richard Justice of The Houston Chronicle mentions that the Astros have only $44MM in salary commitments for next season, most of which is tied up in Roy Oswalt and Carlos Lee. I respectfully disagree that Oswalt's $16MM salary "can easily be traded." How many teams have that much room in their budget?
  • ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that Carl Crawford has put himself in a pretty good position going into free agency. The Rays' left fielder is hitting .343/.408/.571, but is only 7-for-11 in stolen base opportunities, and there's still 83% of the season left the play.
  • ESPN's Keith Law and Jason Churchill go back and redo the 2004 draft. Both see Justin Verlander and Dustin Pedroia going 1-2 in a redraft.