Starlin Castro, once the Cubs’ shining SS prospect, provided much-needed hope for the future at the time of his arrival, but is now the odd man out. Let me begin by saying this in no way has any correlation to his recent off field issues in the Dominican Republic. I like Starlin Castro; Just not enough to squander some current, and considerably more valuable, assets on the Cubs team and farm system.
For the past 18-24 months I’ve been on the “Trade Starlin Castro” train. He had a reasonably decent 2014 contributing a slash line of .292/.339/.438 in addition to 14 home runs and 65 RBI. He played in 28 fewer games than a usual “full season,” which contributed to his career low 15 errors, but after five seasons in the majors, he’s still averaging 24 errors a year. As a fan, every time I see a grounder make its way to him, I cringe, and am surprised when the ball makes it safely to Anthony Rizzo‘s glove at first base. Anyone can say “youth” or “mental mistakes” when talking about his fielding, but the fact is he’s led all of MLB in errors twice since 2010, and leads overall since then with 120. Only Ian Desmond (116) and Pedro Alvarez (110) come close in that amount of time.
The Chicago Cubs have a lot of great, young talent waiting in the wings for an opportunity, and Castro may find himself not only in the way, but also defensively hurting the team. The first name up in the discussion must be Javier Baez, who left a lot to be desired at the plate after his August call-up from Triple-A Iowa. Although he had a lowly .169/.227/.324 slash line, his bat speed and ferociously violent swing are what the Cubs’ brass are salivating over. He played some second base last season for the big club. Short stop is his natural position, but don’t rule out a move to third base as a fall-back option for the team.
Kris Bryant is a rare find. Rated as one of the top Minor League prospects coming into the 2015 season, Bryant is as humble as they come. A natural 3rd baseman, there have also been rumors about moving him into the outfield to make room for either a shift by Baez or current free-swinging Triple-A third baseman Mike Olt. Bryant is smashing his way through the minors, batting .327 in addition to his 52 home runs and 140 RBI in just two seasons. He also has 203 hits in 174 games played, 103 of which are for extra bases. 33% of Olt’s hits in 2014 were homeruns, but unfortunately that’s about as good as it gets with him. He’s quickly finding himself on the outside looking in, much like once highly touted first round draft pick Josh Vitters.
Second base will most likely be platooned in the near future by Arismendy Alcantara and Utility man Logan Watkins. Both are role players, but not every position can be a future Hall of Famer, let alone an All-Star. Javier Baez, as mentioned previously, could do some time at second as well.
In a trade with the Oakland Athletics last season that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel out West, the Cubs gained an excellent prospect in Addison Russell. Russell is the future at shortstop for the Chicago Cubs. In three Minor League season, he’s hacked a very respectable .300/.379/.522 with 37 home runs and 150 RBI in 233 games. What impresses me even more than his power is his defensive numbers. His .968 defensive percentage definitely needs to go up a few points, but with only 29 errors in three season, I’m more than convinced that this is the right man for the job. I’ve heard that there’s a lot of maturity behind those 20-year-old eyes.
As you can see, the Cubs are quite loaded for the foreseeable future. In my opinion, their best option is to trade Castro while his value is reasonably high and get something necessary like a few new Minor Leaguers or pitchers/spot starters that can immediately contribute.
And regardless of the defensive issues I’d mentioned earlier, some teams just flat-out need someone with experience at short, such as the Mets. Some clubs will simply take what they can get, and give handsomely for it too.
I certainly hope to see the Cubs in the World Series in my lifetime. If it’s anything like what’s been banded around since Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein’s arrival, it could be sooner than later. It just won’t be with number 13 at short stop.. unless Addison Russell changes his number.