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August 20, 2012

Transaction Analysis

The Stars are Re-Signed

by R.J. Anderson

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CHICAGO CUBS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Reportedly re-signed SS-R Starlin Castro to a seven-year contract extension worth $60 million with a club option worth $16 million for the 2020 season. [8/18]

After spending most of the season focusing on players from outside the organization, Jed Hoyer recently turned his attention inward. By pursuing and consummating a contract extension with the franchise’s best player, Hoyer has given Cubs fans a reason to celebrate. This just weeks after reports had the Cubs listening to offers for every player, Castro included. The problem with trading Castro is getting equal value. There aren’t many players, prospects or otherwise, with Castro’s upside and track record at the big-league level. Ostensibly, a reasonable offer never materialized and Hoyer did the next best thing to adding a few young, impact players: he re-signed his own to a sizable extension.

Extending a two-time All-Star requires capital more than intellect. The Cubs have always had the former. Don’t let Castro’s relatively down season fool you, however. Chicago did not receive a discount. Not when Castro’s deal is compared to the six-year, $50 million extension signed by Justin Upton in March 2010. The parallels between Castro and Upton extend beyond the average annual value. Both were 22 year olds teeming with Hall of Fame-caliber upside when they signed their deals.

There were differences in playing styles; Upton was a better power hitter and a more polished batter, Castro plays a tough position and excels at hitting for average. But there’s also one other similarity worth noting. Castro and Upton master at alienating onlookers. Upton has fallen out of favor to the extent where a member of the D’Backs ownership group took him to task on a local radio show. None of the Cubs owners have shamed Castro publicly, yet. Castro’s mental gaffes have drawn the ire of fans. Plays like the one below, from last week, have turned one of the game’s most exciting young talents into one of the game’s most polarizing figures.

After an incident of mind-wandering last season, Steven Goldman prescribed a good heaping of managerial and veteran influence for Castro’s betterment. While no one can speak to the quality of the Cubs’ veteran leadership, the club did make a change at manager. Thus far, Dale Sveum has taken a tough love approach with Castro. Sveum floated the idea of benching Castro after a few blunders, and recently evaluated his abilities by calling him a sixth- or seventh-place hitter. The money is now heavily on Castro’s side along with the on-the-field and off-the-field value.

Which brings up another foil: Will Sveum alter how he deals with Castro now? The smart money is on no; a manager who treats his players differently based on earnings is probably not a manager long for the league. But how many times can Sveum bench the club’s $60 million investment for mental mistakes before ownership decides to take action? True, this isn’t a superstar-ran league like the NBA. Yet, were a power struggle to occur, it’s easy to see Castro winning.

Enough with the clubhouse politics, though. Castro has shown a willingness to improve his game. His defense is improved this season, and while the Cubs still may opt to move him from the position in the future—especially if they feel his defensive responsibilities are weighing down his bat—it’s not the foregone conclusion it once was. At the plate, Castro is hitting for more power than he had in previous seasons. Yes, his plate discipline is still rough, and he could stand to take a few more walks, but a true-talent .290-to-.300 hitter is all but guaranteed to have an above-average OBP nowadays.

Maybe Castro will fall short of those Cooperstown projections. Maybe he’ll never be more than a better-than-average hitter that happens to play shortstop and drives everyone nuts with an occasionally boneheaded mistake. Even then, he’ll be worth the money he's paid; if not to the Cubs, then to one of the other teams.

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

Related Content:  Starlin Castro,  Justin Upton

21 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Richard Bergstrom

I don't think Sveum alters his approach but I think Castro has $60 million in incentives not to listen. I do think the Cubs got good value, but I also think it sends the wrong kind of message.

Aug 20, 2012 03:28 AM
rating: 0
 
Behemoth

At the end of the day, a player like Castro is talented enough that he's going to make a boatload of cash from baseball in any case, whether he cuts out the mental lapses or not. If he's going to improve that side of his game, it was never going to be because of money.

Also, I think the Cubs are more interested in whether they save some money by locking him up now. They don't want to wait another year or two because some fans think that Castro doesn't listen to the manager enough, and end up paying another $20 million as a result.

My own view is that it's good from the Cubs point of view that they've not done this just after Castro goes on a hot streak. It suggests a degree of wisdom in the front office that hasn't been there previously.

Aug 20, 2012 05:12 AM
rating: 2
 
SaberTJ

How many 22 year olds have the kind of maturity needed to focus on their profession as hard as one whose older and wiser?

We're talking about someone whom just should be graduating college, give him a chance to grow up.

Aug 20, 2012 05:33 AM
rating: 3
 
Richard Bergstrom

Well, to be honest, I'd prefer Bryce Harper's attitude. Heck, Rizzo's attitude is great too.

Aug 20, 2012 09:50 AM
rating: 2
 
Pat Folz

I've only been in STEM fields so maybe it's different from the rest of the population, but honestly, when kids started getting real internships and then jobs age 21-22 they developed professionalism and maturity pretty damn fast.

The thing that gets me about Castro is that he's generally been quite young for his levels. I'd think being around older people would influence him to get his act together quickly, but that doesn't seem to be the case. I know I know, baseball players, but most of them don't do things like that GIF up there.

That said, it's hard for this deal to not pay off in the end, if only because pre-2012 CBA free agent wins cost $5M-$6M, and I'd think that number would only go up with draft pick compensation nerfed. He's only getting paid for 1.5-2 wins or so, and he's already worth a bit more than that (either as a crummy defensive SS or presumed mediocre-average defensive 2B).

If he does eventually break out and get on the HOF track, as this article suggests, then obviously the deal is a huge steal. I have a hard time seeing that happen, though: he's been in the Majors for almost 3 years now and has shown very little growth, in fact basically none if you don't think this year's more equitable 2B-HR distribution is permanent. As the careers of young middle infielders go, I bet he ends up a hell of a lot closer to Luis Rivas than Alan Trammell.

Aug 20, 2012 10:19 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

The funny thing is, the Cubs already have the perfect mentor in place in Soriano. Soriano was criticized as a rookie for poor defense, many mental lapses, etc. I know he already works with Castro, but ideally, Soriano should be a warning sign to Castro that as you age and your talent fades, you need to put in the work to remain productive.

Aug 20, 2012 12:21 PM
rating: 1
 
SaberTJ

Richard - first of all. Harper isn't that comparable to Castro. Harper grew up in America with everyone around him telling him he was going to be great and had family around him preparing him for fame.

Pat - Comparing interns in STEM fields to Castro seems a bit strange. Individuals in the STEM fields tend to be those whom are stronger at academics and spend a majority of their collegiate time at the library or a lab. I would imagine their collegiate curriculum required lots of study time and discipline to avoid the temptations college offers.

Where as Castro, was never in a collegiate environment that required maturity and discipline. Instead he was thrown in the Major Leagues in a big market at 20 year olds making 400k a year. All because he had natural talent to hit a baseball.

I would imagine that whatever teaching he received while in DR is nowhere near the real world preparation one might get in a collegiate environment. Castro has to learn by the seat of his pants.

Aug 21, 2012 11:59 AM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

*blinks*

Um. Even with all his talent, Harper works his butt off. Also, Harper doesn't make repeated mental mistakes. Also, there are a lot of Dominicans/Puerto Ricans/Cubans/Japanese/Canadians who work their butt off and don't make repeated mental mistakes. Cespedes had a friggin' minimovie put out about his exploits, yet he is working hard and he isn't making repeated mental mistakes.

WTF does being or not being an American have to do with this discussion?

Aug 21, 2012 15:42 PM
rating: -1
 
Sean

In my opinion, it's relevant insofar as how one may project his future maturity. There's a gap with where he is now and where he needs to be, but the expectations of a player with Castro's background are different than those of many U.S.-born players, especially as they are still young compared to their peers.

Personally, I think you're making the mistake of lumping every foreign player together as part of Castro's peer group, including a 26-year-old Cuban. Time will tell, but isn't this a case where you have to give weight to the (pro/con) judgement of the people who know the individual much, much, much better than anyone on the outside?

Aug 21, 2012 23:49 PM
rating: 0
 
SaberTJ

Of course being an American makes a difference. Different countries present different cultures with different attitudes about work and wealth. I would imagine the environment at the work place in DR is much different than one in America.

There are only a handful of people in the DR that make more than what Castro does right now. Where as in America there are thousands of millionaires. Castro instead is a millionaire because he has God given athleticism and a scout found him while playing a game he enjoyed. Where would he have had time to learn the advantages and payoffs of hard work and discipline? What "storms" did he have to go through to make in baseball? Despite Castro's mental errors he's still playing everyday, and just got a big contract.

Cespedes is hardly a good comparison. He is 4 years older and grew up in an dictatorship. Individuals will risk their lives for a chance to escape. Certainly not something anyone would experience trying to get out of DR.

Aug 22, 2012 06:20 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Different cultures may have different attitudes about work and wealth, but each culture has hard workers and quick learners. Just because the DR is different doesn't make it worse, or doesn't mean they produce a lower quality of person.

There are thousands of millionaires in America, partially because there are 300 or so million people in the United States. There are fewer millionaires in the DR because, guess what, they have fewer people. Now, proportionally, Americans may have a higher rate of millionaires and there might be a general difference in the standard of living... but that being said, there are players from the DR who work hard, and in general, don't experience the "lack of focus" issues that Starlin has.

Where would he have the time to learn the advantages of hard work and discipline? I would guess he had a childhood idol. I would guess that someone like Alfonso Soriano was talking to him. And you know what? There are people who get to the majors quickly, are from the DR, and still manage to maintain focus.

I think Cespedes is a good of a comparison because you have a player adapting to a different environment and culture on the fly. He was extremely hyped with "everyone around him telling him he would be great" and instantly turned into a multimillionaire. That seemed to be the thrust of why you think Castro has had problems adjusting because he was turned into an instant millionaire.

Then again, I still don't buy/can't believe this "Bryce Harper isn't a good comparison because he's an American" spiel. Again, there have been many players in similar situations to Castro. Some succeed and some fail regardless of country of origin. I think it is very dangerous to assume that a certain country's players will mature slower than Americans.

Aug 22, 2012 08:22 AM
rating: 0
 
Sean

I do understand what you're saying, and I appreciate your perspective because it's really founded in having equal expectations for everyone. That's valid and admirable. I just don't think it works in the general case because I do believe cultural roots play a large part in shaping people -- not forever and not universally, just in shades of gray. We're talking about a young player here, and I think Castro has shown a lot of aptitude as a 20-22 year old. He doesn't look like he's done adjusting even if he's not where you expect him to be yet.

Perhaps our disagreement comes mostly from evaluating from different perspectives? Maybe you're looking from a manager's view of holding players to high expectations, while SaberTJ and I are taking a long-term view of what we expect him to become through an average expectation of development. Those are not the same thing.

I don't want to belabor the country thing too much because I think you just view/value things differently than I do, but let's compare the types of players produced out of Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. You'll rarely see catchers come out of the Dominican -- the all-time major league list is very small -- whereas they are more abundant and successful out of Venezuela. One potential reason: There's a better education system in Venezuela, and many of these kids play actual baseball games as youth. In the Dominican, they have no such structure until they are signed by a team. The catcher thing is just a symptom, but the education issue is going to be something that impacts players no matter if you think every player deserves equal expectations.

Aug 23, 2012 10:21 AM
rating: 1
 
John Douglass

"...Castro plays a tough division..."

Please elaborate.

Aug 20, 2012 07:39 AM
rating: 0
 
R.A.Wagman

I'm guessing that was a typo and he meant to write "tough position".

Aug 20, 2012 07:52 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Sam Miller
BP staff

You are both speaking gibberish!

No, you're right, and it's now been fixed in the article.

Aug 20, 2012 09:01 AM
 
Richard Bergstrom

I actually thought he meant the NL Central was tough compared to the NL West...

Aug 20, 2012 12:34 PM
rating: 0
 
ttt

It's tough compared to the FSL...

Aug 20, 2012 15:19 PM
rating: 2
 
Edwincnelson

Hoyer made a good deal here. That contract makes for cost certainty if he stays and provides cost certainty to the other team if he ends up being traded. For me I hope he's traded because he's already starting to fill out and without the power (or the arm strength) it's a tough sell to move him to 3rd.

Aug 20, 2012 13:05 PM
rating: 0
 
Ameer

Does Castro really have the type of personality that would clash with a manager like, say, Hanley did with Fredi Gonzalez? He makes some boneheaded mistakes, but I don't think he's considered lazy or defiant. Am I wrong on this? The guy probably just needs some more experience (or, quite possibly, he's just the type of player who will continue to make a lot of defensive mistakes).

Aug 20, 2012 14:34 PM
rating: 3
 
Richard Bergstrom

He hasn't shown that he's particularly smart or that he can learn. Part of what makes Castro seems special is he does a lot at such a young age. But, if he doesn't learn and adapt, if he doesn't stay in shape and gets moved off of shortstop, is his current production what you would want to pay for 6 years down the road at $10+ million?

Aug 20, 2012 15:53 PM
rating: -3
 
Behemoth

That's certainly the view that a proportion of fans have taken. On the other hand, the article talks about how his game is developing on both sides of the ball. I think that the idea that he's lazy/slack/doesn't learn is probably overblown now - pretty much every defensive mistake is seen as being a mental lapse.

Aug 21, 2012 15:43 PM
rating: 1
 
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