Chicago Cubs: What should be done with Starlin Castro?
The Chicago Cubs have an interesting problem on their hands in figuring out what to do with Starlin Castro, who has been back-and-forth the last few years.
Remember when Starlin Castro was a future franchise player? Remember when the baseball world believed he was destined for the Hall of Fame?
You should. We were having these kinds of conversations about Castro a year ago.
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What’s happened since then?
Overall, Castro had a down year in 2015. He got benched mid-season. And this down year coupled with other years when Castro just didn’t play up to our imagined potential has us questioning whether or not he should be a part of the Chicago Cubs’ plans moving forward.
To put it simply, the 25-year-old infielder has been very inconsistent both in the field and at the plate. When he lost his job as the Cubs’ starting shortstop in early August, Castro was hitting just .236 and had already committed 18 errors. The Cubs felt they had other players who could present better results in the field and at the plate.
But Castro turned his game around after the benching, raising his batting average nearly 30 points by season’s end and playing well at second base when given the opportunity. In the playoffs, Castro protected Anthony Rizzo in the batting order while hitting in the fifth spot, though he did not ultimately have great results.
Moving on to 2016, Castro is projected to make $7.8 million and does not have a guaranteed starting position. Should the Cubs try to move him?
Castro ended the season exclusively as the Cubs starting second baseman. If he were to revisit that role in 2016, the $7.8 million he will get paid seems a reasonable salary.
So, should he start at second base for the Cubs next year? Castro matches well with other second basemen around the league. Though his slash line (.265 BA/.296 OBP/.671 OPS) is a bit below the 2015 numbers put up by the Pirates’ Neil Walker (.269/.328/.756) and playoff superhero Daniel Murphy (.281/.322/.770), Castro’s numbers include a prolonged midseason slump and are well below his career averages. He’s a serviceable second basemen and the Cubs certainly could do worse.
But the real question at-hand is this: do the Cubs think they can do better?
Their internal options at second base include Javier Baez, Chris Coghlan and Tommy La Stella. We all know that Baez has huge upside. He has great power and looks comfortable in the field. But is he ready to take over on a regular basis? He still has a high strikeout rate and has not spent much time at second (though, to be fair, neither has Castro).
Coghlan is a known commodity and appears capable of consistently putting up numbers similar to Castro’s 2015 year. But, Castro has a history of stronger seasons than what we saw in 2015. So when compared to Coghlan, he offers a higher upside.
La Stella is a bit of an unknown. He lost most of this past season to injury, so he has a small sample size to compare to Castro’s numbers. Being he is so untested should give the Chicago Cubs’ front office pause in giving him the starting second job.
If the Cubs were to trade Castro, could they get a return that outweighs the questions they would leave at second base? We know the Cubs have holes in the rotation, the bullpen and possibly in center field.
The 2015-16 offseason is unique in that the best options for the Cubs to fill their pitching needs could come through free agency, with the likes of David Price, Zack Greinke and Jordan Zimmermann all being available. The likelihood of the Cubs being able to flip Castro for a similar pitcher is not good (although our friends at Swingin A’s suggest that Sonny Gray could be had).
The center field and catcher holes are bit more difficult to address, as incumbents like Dexter Fowler are yet to decide what course of action they are going to pursue ahead of the 2016 campaign.
The bottom line, then, is that unless the Cubs can flip Castro for a player who offers immediate value in a weak position, they are better to keep Castro and give him a run at second base in 2016.