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Starlin Castro Rumors
Two days ago we heard that the Cubs are letting teams know that almost all of their players — other than Jeff Samardzija and Starlin Castro — are available in trades. Chicago's north side will be a hot source of rumors over the next few weeks, so let's keep track of today's news here, with the latest up top…
- Contrary to spring rumors, the Cubs never had a handshake agreement with outfielder Jorge Soler, but their interest in the Cuban was legit and figures to intensify now that he's officially a free agent, writes Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. Manager Dale Sveum, who watched Soler workout this offseason, described his hitting as "pretty strong" today.
- Matt Garza is available for the right offer, reports ESPN's Buster Olney (Twitter links). The Yankees have interest and Olney speculates that the Blue Jays could be a fit given their need for high-end starting pitching and cache of tradeable prospects.
- "If I'd known that, it would have made me think about it," said Castro to reporters (including Paul Sullivan of The Chicago Tribune) when asked about the trade rumors. "That's what I want — to be here all my career. I don't want to go anywhere. I have my family here. I don't want to be traded."
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has denied that his team is exploring deals for Starlin Castro, report Doug Padilla and Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago. "Starlin Castro is the type of player we're looking to build around," Epstein said. "There has been no trade consideration with him whatsoever."
USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported earlier today that the Cubs were open to dealing anyone but Jeff Samardzija from the roster, including Castro, who was reportedly available for the price of "two impact prospects." Castro, 22, is under team control through 2016 and is arbitration-eligible for the first of four years this winter due to his Super Two status.
Padilla and Levine cite an Epstein quote from earlier in the week, where the executive said that while no player was entirely untouchable, some players "are core pieces that it's almost impossible to foresee moving. You would have to be completely blown away to even contemplate it." Clearly it would take such a knockout trade offer for the Cubs to swap Castro, who would be the most sought-after trade chip in baseball if Chicago actually put him on the market. It wouldn't be out of the question for the Cubs to ask for not just two major prospects in exchange, but also for a team to take Alfonso Soriano's big contract (roughly $48MM remaining through 2014) off the Cubs' hands.
6:31pm: Castro is "first on the list of players [the Cubs] won't trade," according to a team that recently spoke to the Cubs, reports Danny Knobler of CBS Sports. Knobler also says the Cubs have told teams that they will cover as much as $45MM of the approximately $48MM remaining on Soriano's contract if the outfielder is moved (Twitter link). At least one team has already expressed interest in Dempster, tweets ESPN's Buster Olney.
1:45pm: The Cubs are letting teams know that nearly every player except Jeff Samardzija is available in trades, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports. Some teams are already calling the 18-32 Cubs about potential deals.
"We're starting to get some early calls now," president of baseball operations Theo Epstein told Nightengale. "There might be fewer sellers than usual and a lot more buyers. This has a chance to help us. We need core players."
Starlin Castro could be obtained for two impact prospects, according to Nightengale. First baseman Bryan LaHair and starters Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster could also be acquired. The Cubs will contribute cash in a deal involving Alfonso Soriano, who earns $18MM per season through 2014.
Though Epstein's longtime team, the Red Sox, hasn't been a seller for years, Chicago GM Jed Hoyer was trading Major Leaguers for prospects as recently as last summer. He acquired Joe Wieland and Robbie Erlin from the Rangers for Mike Adams in 2011 when he was the Padres' GM.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com lists 45 potential trade candidates in anticipation of this summer’s deals. Here are some highlights, starting with a team that could be a buyer, rather than a seller:
- One GM questions Zack Greinke’s ability to thrive in major markets. Keep in mind that Brewers owner Mark Attanasio has a buyer’s mindset as the deadline approaches. Greinke and others on Milwaukee’s roster may not be available.
- Fellow Brewers starter Shaun Marcum is no better than a fourth starter in the American League, according to a GM. It's worth noting that Marcum posted a 3.85 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in five seasons in the American League East when he pitched for the Blue Jays.
- An American League executive said Padres starter Edinson Volquez “has good value,” Heyman reports.
- One person said Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano is worth a short-term look.
- Royals GM Dayton Moore may like Jeff Francoeur more than any other team does.
- Jeremy Guthrie will have to string together some quality outings to restore his trade value, one executive said.
- Heyman hears from a Cubs official who says the team hasn't mentioned Starlin Castro's name in trade talks (Twitter link). The Cubs appear to be willing to listen on most of their players, including Castro.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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."