As expected, the Marlins will decline their $16MM option on infielder Starlin Castro, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link). Castro will instead receive a $1MM buyout and head into the free agent market for the first time in his career.
Castro’s eventual departure from Miami has been more or less forecast ever since he was acquired from the Yankees as part of the Giancarlo Stanton blockbuster in December 2017. Castro’s inclusion in the deal was largely due to help balance out the salaries involved in the trade, and the Marlins have spent much of the last two seasons exploring trades for Castro as part of the club’s efforts to pare down payroll and move veteran talent.
Castro didn’t entirely help his trade value by posting a pair of decent but unspectacular seasons in Miami. 2018 saw him hit .278/.329/.400 over 647 PA, with a 101 wRC+ and 102 OPS+ indicating slightly above-average offense and solid glovework upping his value to 2.3 fWAR. He took a step back to 1.3 fWAR and a 91 wRC+/94 OPS+ in 2019 largely due to a horrific opening three months of the season, as Castro hit only .230/.258/.313 over his first 345 plate appearances.
His much improved hitting from July 1 onward will help Castro’s chances in free agency, and he also boosted his versatility by playing third base for the first time in his Major League career, appearing in 45 games at the hot corner last season. Though a ten-year veteran, Castro still doesn’t turn 30 years old until March, making him both younger and with a lot more experience as an everyday performer than several of the other second-tier options on the second base/third base market.
The Marlins will move forward with prospect Isan Diaz penciled into second base, though since Diaz only had a .566 OPS over his first 201 Major League plate appearances, Miami is likely to look for a veteran backup or multi-position player who could step into second base duty if Diaz still needs more minor league seasoning. Re-signing Castro is “not a priority early in free agency,” Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald hears from a source, though the Marlins haven’t totally closed the door on the possibility of a Castro return.