Starlin Castro Rumors


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.



Odds & Ends: Red Sox, Howard, Francisco, Mendoza

Links to check out as we await Cliff Lee's Mariners debut...



Cubs Notes: Castro, Bullpen, Silva

MLB.com's Carrie Muskat answered a few Cubs-related questions from readers today in a mailbag. Within the piece, she addresses some potential roster moves for the Cubs. Here are the highlights:

  • Look for super-prospect Starlin Castro to start the year in the minors, where he'll be able to play every day. The Cubs are hoping Mike Fontenot can back up Ryan Theriot at shortstop. That way, the club can use their final bench spot on a player with some pinch-hitting pop, rather than a reserve infielder like Andres Blanco.
  • Asked if the Cubs will fill their bullpen holes through free agency or trades, Muskat acknowledges that GM Jim Hendry has been looking for an experienced right-handed reliever since before the Winter Meetings. However, the club could still stand pat, using younger, in-house options to fill out their bullpen. As Muskat notes, "there's nothing wrong with youth as long as they get the job done."
  • One reader poses the idea of Carlos Silva moving to the bullpen as a right-handed setup man. Muskat suggests that, given some more time with pitching coach Larry Rothschild, Silva could be successful at the back of the rotation.



Odds & Ends: Weeks, Castro, Roberts, Piniella

Lots of rainouts in Florida, so here are some links to get you through the day...



Curtis Granderson Rumors: Monday

10:31pm: Jon Heyman of SI.com reports that the Yankees spent "much of the day" trying to acquire Granderson. They still haven't offered Johnny Damon a contract. 

9:49pm: MLB.com's Doug Miller hears from one source who says the Mariners "might" be in the mix for Granderson. That's hardly a surprise, given that they've been linked to him in recent weeks.

5:14pm: Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times talked to a Cubs source who's heard nothing to support rumors that the Tigers are trying to move Granderson this week.

4:05pm: With USA Today's Bob Nightengale suggesting the Tigers hope to trade Curtis Granderson this week, the center fielder requires his own post.

ESPN's Peter Gammons says the Tigers wanted shortstop prospect Starlin Castro and two others from the Cubs.  That price is too high for the Cubs.  Gammons' colleague Buster Olney says the Tigers want Phil Hughes and Austin Jackson from the Yankees for Granderson.









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