Starlin Castro is many things at the age of 25. He’s a three-time All-Star, a six-year veteran, the 2011 National League leader in hits with 207, and a brand-new member of the New York Yankees. There’s no denying that Castro is a great player, but there is one thing he’s not — a marquee player. When Starlin Castro debuted at the age of 20 years, 44 days, that’s what he was expected to be, but those lofty expectations never came to fruition.
When Castro debuted in 2010, the Chicago Cubs were a bad, bad baseball team, but he was their great hope. Over the first five years of Castro’s career, his team lost 464 games and had a 101-loss season in 2012, the first year of the long-term, eight-year extension handed to the shortstop. In six years in the big leagues, Castro has never progressed from the raw, youthful prospect who batted over .300 in each of his first two seasons. His on-base percentage has been in decline since peaking at .341 in 2011, and he has two seasons with an OBP below .300. Defensively, Castro is mediocre at best, and was moved off shortstop in August to make room for Addison Russell. In six years, Castro has been worth 1.3 dWAR and has only been in the black when it comes to defensive runs saved over the course of a full season one time.
Six years in, it is clear that Starlin Castro is not the elite offensive or defensive player everyone envisioned him to be when he debuted just past his twentieth birthday. Such things often happen to young players called up to star for bad teams. Castro was brought up to lead a team with very little star power to support and help mold him, and it showed at times in his on-field demeanor, work ethic, and overall performance. He is notoriously streaky, and can go into a shell when things are not going well. Now, after a trade to the Yankees, Starlin Castro gets a fresh start.
At first glance, the Yankees and the Big Apple may not seem like a great fit for a mercurial player like Starlin Castro. On the contrary, New York City should be viewed as a great place for Starlin Castro to rebound after failing to live up to the hype in Chicago. With the Yankees, he will not be called upon to carry an offense. He can bat in the lower third of the order instead of the top third. Castro simply does not have the on-base skills needed to bat second in today’s game. The Yankees will be able to surround Castro with veterans who can help him stay on track and take care of business, and he will not be viewed as the face of the franchise or the media’s whipping boy. There are no expectations that Castro will win batting titles or develop into a consisted 20-20 threat. He moves to New York and becomes a solid second base upgrade over the mess that played there last year.
Following the trade, Starlin Castro can get back to playing baseball without the hopes of an entire city. His career arc may have been entirely different had the Cubs brought him up into a different situation with veterans to watch over his development. Castro would have blended into the background similarly were he arriving at the same time as Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez, and Jorge Soler. Instead, as they arrived, he was the former face of the franchise who needed to be moved to clear up salary for the next generation of potential superstars. The immeasurable athletic gifts are still there, but now Starlin Castro gets to put them to work in a setting that could allow him to blossom back into the star everyone thought he could be.