Former Chicago Cubs star Starlin Castro could be a free agent this winter. Could he be a solution at second base for the Cubs?
Starlin Castro was a Chicago Cubs fixture during the lean years of the early 2010s, a rare bright spot in an otherwise forgettable era of Cubs baseball. He made a big splash right away in 2010, homering and driving in six runs in his big league debut on May 7. He would go on to hit .300, and in 2011 he would lead the National League with 207 hits.
With Addison Russell and Javier Baez available up the middle, plus the acquisition of Ben Zobrist? The Cubs decided they didn’t need Castro anymore after the 2015 season and traded him to the New York Yankees. Castro spent two years with the Yankees before living in virtual anonymity for two years with the lowly Miami Marlins.
Now, with Zobrist likely gone as a free agent and Russell likely to be non-tendered, there’s a hole at second base, a spot where the Cubs struggled to get production in 2019. Could Castro be a solution for 2020?
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The Marlins hold a $16 million option on Castro for 2020, or they could pay a $1 million buyout. Given the fire sale the Marlins have held over the past couple of seasons, it’s hard to understand why the Marlins have held onto Castro this long unless they wanted the veteran presence on a young, inexperienced team (though Castro is still only 29).
$16 million is a lot for a player of Castro’s caliber, particularly for a team with a low payroll like the Marlins have. There’s a good chance that the Marlins will decline the option, making Castro a free agent.
Assuming that indeed happens, Castro would become one of the top free-agent second basemen on the market this winter. He’s quietly coming off a big year in which he set a career-high in home runs (22) and RBIs (86) while hitting 31 doubles, the eighth time in his career he’s hit at least 29 of them. He played in all 162 games, and while he’s not a superstar on defense, he’s proven that he can play shortstop and third base in addition to second base.
Two concerns about Castro: One is that he doesn’t take many walks, as he only took 28 in all of 2019 and has only taken more than 36 once (48 in 2018). The other is that he grounded into a career-high 23 double plays in 2019. Still, he’s proven himself to be a guy who will collect his hits and can drive in runs.
No, Castro would not be an immediate fix for everything that’s wrong with the Cubs’ offense. And I have no idea whether either side would be interested in a reunion, especially given the history between the two. If the Cubs are serious about finding an external candidate to fill their second base need, they could do a lot worse than Castro.