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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.
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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.
We're talking about someone whom just should be graduating college, give him a chance to grow up.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
No, you're right, and it's now been fixed in the article.