The trade of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland Athletics this past weekend only added organization depth to the Chicago Cubs’ system in terms of middle infielders, adding the likes of Addison Russell to the ranks that already include Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara and others.
John Harper of the New York Daily News believes that the New York Mets are one of the most logical suitors for the Cubs’ big league starting shortstop, Starlin Castro, although he has been told a deal is more likely to take place in the offseason, rather than ahead of the July 31 trade deadline.
"One Mets source said the chance of making such a trade was more likely in the offseason, and the consensus among baseball people was that Cubs president Theo Epstein would prefer to wait until then to sort out his trio of shortstops, which now includes top prospects Russell and Javier Baez as well as Castro."
Now, Epstein was adamant he had no intentions of trading his star shortstop after the deal was made that acquired Russell, adding that he saw no reason why Baez, Castro and Russell couldn’t all be starting for the Cubs in the future. However, Harper said that Mets’ general manager Sandy Alderson may get aggressive, which could lead to the Cubs considering the deal more seriously than they do right now.
"“Knowing Sandy, I think he’ll try,” said a baseball person who has worked for Alderson in the past. “I’ve seen him get aggressive, more aggressive than you might think, when he sees a chance to get something he wants.”"
Castro, 24, was just named to his third All-Star team in five big league seasons, and is in the midst of the best season of his career. In half as many games, he’s already surpassed both his home run and RBI totals from a year ago, and could break the century mark in terms of the latter if he keeps up his current pace.
He’s signed through 2019 on a deal that includes a team option for the 2020 season and has always been considered a building block for the organization moving forward. However, the Cubs’ system lacks major pitching prospects and trading Castro may be one of the most expedient ways to build that stockpile. As Harper notes, New York has a great deal of pitching depth organizationally, and it could be dangled to land one of the league’s best hitters – according to a league executive.
"“He’d want (Noah) Syndergaard,” the exec said. “That would be harder for the Mets to do. There’s still huge upside with him. Wheeler would be attractive — you can see the stuff is there for him to be a top-of-the-rotation guy. But think it would have to be Wheeler and another pitcher, maybe (Jacob) deGrom.”"
The likes of Syndergaard, Wheeler or deGrom would all be enticing options for Chicago moving forward, but, again, as noted by Harper, Castro’s contract – which totals just $44 million over the next five years – adds even more value to the Cubs’ shortstop, given he’s the best-hitting middle infielder at his position outside of Troy Tulowitzki in Colorado.
It appears Castro will finish the season in Chicago, but if there’s anything Cubs fans should have learned over the holiday weekend, it’s that if the right deal presents itself, there’s nothing Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer won’t consider.