It was on or around this date when a couple of interesting transactions occurred over the last two seasons. Together, they show some of the possibilities that we could still see over the last dozen or so days of the month.
Last year, the Nationals completed the acquisition of outfielder David DeJesus from the Cubs on August 19th after claiming him off revocable waivers in the days before. And on today’s date in 2012, the Cubs reportedly reached agreement with shortstop Starlin Castro on a seven-year, $60MM extension.
The DeJesus transaction was somewhat curiously received at the time — there was even a suggestion that it had been a mistake — but makes better sense in retrospect. Though the foundering Nats would go on to make a decent but too-late run at postseason contention, the club was well out of the race at the time. And the veteran DeJesus had roughly $2.5MM in guaranteed money left on his deal (including a buyout of a $6.5MM option for this season). As it turned out, DeJesus was placed back on waivers almost immediately and was claimed by the Rays, who ultimately shipped minor league pitcher Matthew Spann to D.C. for the outfielder.
In various comments, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo explained that he had been making use of the team’s “positioning on the waiver wire,” believing that the club could add a prospect by making the claim. Though Spann was not a major add, Rizzo said that he was pleased to add system depth and believed he might have done better if DeJesus had cleared. He also indicated that the team would have been comfortable keeping DeJesus and intended to pursue him in free agency if his option were to be declined. (DeJesus ultimately had his option picked up and signed an extension with Tampa.) Indeed, Washington went on to sign left-handed hitting outfielder Nate McLouth to a two-year, $10.75MM free agent deal that was nearly identical to the two years and $10.5MM that DeJesus got from the Rays.
Let’s turn to Castro, who was just 22 years of age at the time of his deal and signed away the remainder of his twenties for a nice guarantee. Castro was to qualify for arbitration as a Super Two player at the end of the 2012 season, and the extension covered all of his arb eligibility while also buying up three projected free agent-eligible seasons. That deal looked questionable last year, when Castro slumped to a .245/.284/.347 campaign, but Castro has restored his shine in 2014. Over 528 plate appearances, he owns a .286/.333/.433 triple-slash with 13 home runs. He has been valued at 1.7 rWAR, though a more favorable defensive rating from UZR (as opposed to the Total Zone metric utilized by Baseball-Reference) boosts Castro’s fWAR to a strong 2.6 mark.
As things stand, the contract looks to be a solid asset, and it will be interesting to see whether Chicago ultimately looks to cash it in for an alternative, such as young pitching. Though Castro is still just 24, and could be an important anchor for the team’s hoped-for renaissance, the Cubs also have a much-championed assortment of talented, even younger middle infielders filtering up. Arismendy Alcantara and Javier Baez have already reached the bigs, while the recently-acquired Addison Russell is playing at Double-A. While there is certainly no rush for the team to make any moves, and plenty of options remain for allocating those young bats around the field, Castro’s extended control makes for ample flexibility.