The Yankees explored trades for several high-priced veterans on their roster this winter, with Joel Sherman of the New York Post reporting that Starlin Castro was among these names. The Yankees “let some clubs know [Castro] was available,” which comes short of actually shopping the second baseman but it does indicate at least an openness to the idea of a deal. As with Chase Headley and Brett Gardner, the Yankees weren’t able to drum up much trade interest in Castro.
In his first year in the pinstripes, Castro hit .270/.300/.433 with 21 homers over 610 plate appearances, making him a below-average runs creator (94 wRC+). Castro hit for more power than ever before (a career-best .163 Isolated Slugging mark) but he also set a new career high with a 19.3% strikeout rate. He also posted subpar glovework as per the Defensive Runs Saved (-8) and UZR/150 (-7.7) metrics in his first full season as a second baseman.
Castro showed enough promise early in his career that the Cubs signed him to a seven-year, $60MM extension in August 2012 but his production has since declined. With the exception of a strong 2014 campaign, Castro hasn’t delivered much at the plate in three of the last four seasons, and with below-average baserunning and on-base skills, a bump in power might not create enough extra value for Castro if his contact rate and defense continue to decline. It’s worth noting that Castro is both still young (he’s entering his age-27 season) and he has had a year to adjust to AL pitching, so it could perhaps be too early to write him off.
Still, as Castro is owed $30MM through the 2019 season (plus a $16MM club option for 2020 that carries a $1MM buyout), it makes sense that the Yankees would at least consider moving a player who has generated just 1.9 fWAR combined over the last two seasons. The Yankees have been operating under a tighter-than-usual budget this winter, Sherman notes, as the team is aiming to get under the luxury tax threshold by next season.
Aroldis Chapman and Matt Holliday were the club’s major free agent expenditures, while Brian McCann was dealt to the Astros and the likes of Castro, Headley and Gardner were all floated in trade talks. The Yankees have shown a willingness to eat some money to facilitate trades (as in the McCann deal), though outright salary dumps appear to be out of the question as the club continues to rebuild its minor league system.
That deeper farm system may also play a role in New York’s willingness to discuss Castro deals. Shortstop Gleyber Torres was the centerpiece of the Yankees’ midseason trade of Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs, plus Jorge Mateo, Wilkerman Garcia and Tyler Wade are all ranked within MLB.com’s list of the Yankees’ top 15 prospects. With Didi Gregorius seemingly locked into a spot in the middle infield for years to come in the Bronx, this surplus of second base/shortstop talent could make Castro an odd man out for reasons beyond just his salary.