Tag: Starlin Castro

Starlin Castro, Didi Gregorius Trades Turned Spare Parts into Yankees’ Future

It was the first week of the season, a little early for bold statements. But Starlin Castro was already off to a great start with the New York Yankees, so why not?

“We want to be the best middle infield we can be,” Castro said, referring to his new partnership with shortstop Didi Gregorius. “We want to be the best middle infield in the major leagues.”

Maybe they can be, maybe they can’t. But the fact that Castro could even bring up the possibility in the first week of the 2016 season shows how smart and fortunate the Yankees have been the last two winters.

They needed a shortstop because Derek Jeter was retiring and they had no immediate successor in their system. They needed a second baseman because in the first two years after Robinson Cano left for Seattle, they used 10 players at the position without ever finding one they wanted to keep.

They knew they wanted to get younger and more athletic, but how do you do that if your farm system isn’t ready to produce players at the positions you need?

Simple, if the Arizona Diamondbacks decide they’re overloaded at shortstop and will move Gregorius at age 24. Simple, if the Chicago Cubs choose Addison Russell over Castro at shortstop and Ben Zobrist over Castro at second base when Castro’s just 25.

Gregorius and Castro were young and athletic. They were talented. They also came to the Yankees with question marks, which is why the Yankees were able to get Castro for pitcher Adam Warren and infielder Brendan Ryan, and Gregorius in a three-team deal that cost them only pitcher Shane Greene.

Warren is a useful pitcher, but he didn’t fit in the Yankee rotation and wasn’t going to pitch at the back end of the bullpen, either. Greene has a good arm, but he wasn’t going to find his way into the rotation.

The cost was more than reasonable—as long as Gregorius and Castro developed into a double-play combination the Yankees could win with.

It’s too early to say they have, but the results look good so far. Gregorius started slow last year, but he emerged from Jeter’s shadow to have a solid first season in New York. Castro started fast, becoming the first player in Yankee history to drive in seven runs in his first two games with the team.

“Starlin Castro is playing tee-ball right now,” Yankees right fielder Carlos Beltran said.

Castro and Gregorius have looked comfortable together and comfortable as Yankees. Even if it’s a little early to put them in the conversation as baseball’s best double-play combination—it’s hard to beat Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros—it may not be too early to say the Yankees have a middle-infield duo that can last.

They’re certainly young enough. Gregorius turned 26 in February. Castro just got his 1,000th major league hit, but he only turned 26 last month.

Castro was a three-time All-Star before he turned 25, which speaks to his ability and potential. But he also had a reputation for swinging at everything and being slow to adapt.

Gregorius made top-prospect lists when he was coming up through the minor leagues with the Cincinnati Reds. But he was inconsistent enough in three seasons in Arizona that the Diamondbacks (and other teams) wondered if he would ever develop into a quality major league shortstop.

“They both came with questions,” one American League executive said. “That’s why they were available.”

For now, it sure looks like the Yankees bought low on two undervalued talents. For now, it looks like the Yankees benefitted from the Diamondbacks’ preference for playing Nick Ahmed at shortstop, and from the Cubs’ need to move Castro after acquiring Russell and Zobrist.

The Cubs got Russell from the Oakland A’s in July 2014 in the Jeff Samardzija-Jason Hammel trade, and almost immediately, there was talk that he’d replace Castro at shortstop. The switch finally came last August, at a point when Castro’s performance had slipped both offensively and defensively.

“He knew there was a young player that was very talented behind him that might move him out of his spot,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters recently. “I think that’s difficult for players to accept.”

As it turns out, the move may have helped Castro in the long run. When Cubs manager Joe Maddon put Russell at short, he started playing Castro at second base. The two months at second helped convince the Yankees he could play there full-time, and he ended up getting a new start with a team and fanbase that were ready to welcome him.

“It’s a good opportunity to be in this organization,” Castro said. “I just want to be the player I used to be.”

It’s early, but that’s what Castro has looked like so far. It’s early, but he and Gregorius look like a double-play combination the Yankees can win with.

Not bad for a couple of guys picked up on the cheap.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

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Locked-In Starlin Castro, Healthy Yankees Lineup Teasing Explosive Potential

It appears that all the New York Yankees offense needed to get going this season was a one-game warm-up. Also, somebody other than Dallas Keuchel on the mound for the opposition.

And now that these two demands have been met, we’re seeing just what these Bronx Bombers are capable of.

After Keuchel, the reigning American League Cy Young winner, silenced them in their opener Tuesday, the Yankees’ bats woke up in a big way in the final two games of their series against the Houston Astros. A 17-hit parade led to a 16-6 win Wednesday, and the Yankees cranked out 12 more hits in an 8-5 win Thursday.

As is usually the case whenever there’s an offensive outburst like this, the question isn’t who’s been hitting. It’s who hasn’t been hitting.

Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran both went deep Wednesday. Teixeira and Brian McCann went deep Thursday. Those two and Didi Gregorius all have four hits in their last eight at-bats. Jacoby Ellsbury has three hits in his last 10 at-bats. After going hitless to start the season, Alex Rodriguez broke through with a pair of hits Thursday.

But while that’s an awful lot of heat, nobody is as hot as Starlin Castro. The Yankees’ new second baseman was the big star in Wednesday’s rout, tallying four hits and picking up three of his five RBI on his first home run of 2016. On Thursday, he launched his second:

Add in the two-run double that Castro had in the Yankees’ opener, and he now has seven hits in 12 at-bats with two home runs and eight RBI. With numbers like those, all the jokes on Twitter about his inevitable Yankeeography almost have to be taken seriously.

This is the best the Yankees could have hoped for after bringing Castro aboard in a classic upside-play trade with the Chicago Cubs in December. And though his production has resembled a roller coaster throughout his career, it’s hard to ignore that he’s actually been raking for a while now.

After getting off to a slow start, Castro finished 2015 by hitting .353 with a .968 OPS over the final six weeks of the season. Then came a .367 average and a .944 OPS this spring. This brings us to his current state, which Beltran best characterized Wednesday.

“Starlin Castro is playing tee-ball right now,” he told Anthony Rieber of Newsday.

There are reasons for Castro’s turnaround. One is that the three-time All-Star obviously has plenty of underlying talent. And even before Castro told Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media all about it in March, Matt Goldman of Beyond the Box Score noticed that Castro had traded his wide-open stance in the box for a closed stance. 

It’s always a good sign whenever a hot streak from a talented player can be traced back to a tangible adjustment. At best, it means said hot streak may have lasting power. At worst, it means it’s not so surprising.

And while we’re on the topic of not being surprised, we should also acknowledge it’s not the biggest shocker to see the entire Yankees lineup lighting it up.

“This is what we’re capable of,” Teixeira said after Wednesday’s rout, per Bryan Hoch of MLB.com. “You’re not going to do that every night, especially against a good team, but when we have the entire lineup that’s clicking, you’re going to have a couple of nights like this, and they feel good.”

Indeed. The Yankees did score more runs than any other team except the all-powerful (literally) Toronto Blue Jays last year, after all. And with Castro taking Stephen Drew’s place at second base, there’s no denying the collective star power of a starting nine that looks like this:

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
  2. Brett Gardner, LF
  3. Alex Rodriguez, DH
  4. Mark Teixeira, 1B
  5. Brian McCann, C
  6. Carlos Beltran, RF
  7. Chase Headley, 3B
  8. Starlin Castro, 2B
  9. Didi Gregorius, SS

Manager Joe Girardi must feel good every time he writes down these names. A-Rod (fingers crossed), Teixeira and Beltran might be future Hall of Famers. Ellsbury, Gardner, McCann and Castro have been All-Stars. Headley hasn’t, but he was an MVP candidate once. Only Gregorius doesn’t have accolades to his name, but that will change if he keeps hitting like he has been since last year’s All-Star break.

And if all goes well, this lineup will be one of the most productive offenses in the American League. According to Baseball Prospectus, only the Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox are projected for more runs. FanGraphs isn’t as optimistic, but its projections still peg the Yankees as having one of the top 10 offenses in Major League Baseball.

That “if all goes well” part, however, is equal parts caveat and elephant in the room. 

It’s a good sign that Castro’s hot hitting can be traced back to a tangible adjustment, but that doesn’t necessarily free him from his history. His high highs traditionally come with low lows. And though the Yankees offense was mostly good in 2015, there’s no forgetting how much it all fell apart in the end.

After collectively OPS’ing .766 through the season’s first four months, the Yankees offense managed just a .705 OPS down the stretch. Age and durability (or lack thereof) were the culprits. Ellsbury and Gardner struggled to recover from nagging injuries. Teixeira was lost to a broken leg. Rodriguez and McCann stayed healthy, but both hit a wall.

The same fate could befall the Yankees this season. As Jon Tayler wrote at SI.com, it’s “hard not to be concerned about the durability and productivity of a lineup in which Castro and Gregorius are the only hitters under 30.” And with players like Ellsbury, Teixeira, Gardner and Beltran, the Yankees also have some injury proneness in their lineup.

For now, though, the Yankees should be too distracted by what’s going right in the present to worry about what could go wrong in the future. They came into the year needing their offense to be as good in reality as it looked on paper. And with Castro fitting in so well with what was already there, they’re clearly getting their wish.

With better luck than they had in 2015, it’ll stay that way.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Starlin Castro Will Leave Problems in the Past, Flourish with NY Yankees

In Chicago, Starlin Castro was a victim of circumstance. Now, after being traded to the New York Yankees, the shortstop-turned-second baseman should be its beneficiary.

There wasn’t a more criticized athlete in Chicago than the Cubs‘ once-prized shortstop who ended his career with the team as a second baseman before being traded to the Yankees on Dec. 8, a move that will benefit not only both teams but also Castro.

Castro, in his early 20s, was thrust into a starring role on Cubs teams with no intention of competing during the early years of the Theo Epstein rebuild. When Epstein took over as Cubs president of baseball operations, Castro was unprotected in the lineup and often forced to hit third or fourthslots in which he has put up his worst offensive numbers.

Struggles at the plate snowballed into mental lapses in the field, which drew the ire of a tortured Cubs fanbase. In his six seasons in Chicago, the Cubs went through five managers—Lou Piniella, Mike Quade, Dale Sveum, Ricky Renteria and Joe Maddon—while he was trying to learn English.

Those conditions made it difficult for Castro to develop defensively. Only Piniella and Renteria speak Spanish fluently. Try discussing a shift or wheel play in a language you don’t know. You’ll understand the difficulty.

Jim Hendry, the Cubs’ general manager at the time, signed Castro in 2006 and promoted him to the major leagues in 2010, at 20 years old, straight from Double-A Tennessee.

Hendry always had confidence in Castro’s bat—he led the National League with 207 hits in 2011—and thinks that Castro is an ideal fit for a Yankees team trying to compete yet get younger. Castro will turn 26 right before the start of the 2016 season.

Hendry, who was the Cubs’ general manager from 2002-11, has been a Yankees special assistant since 2012.

“In hindsight, very few people can do that [be the centerpiece on a major league team as a young player] well,” Hendry said, while praising the job Epstein has done in Chicago, in an interview with Bleacher Report.

“Obviously the Cubs weren’t trying to contend then. Besides the [Mike] Trouts and [Bryce] Harpers of the world at 21, 22, 23 years old, not too many guys can take on that spot. So I think he probably got in a rut of trying to do too much, swing got a little longer and chased some bad pitches.”

As a shortstop, Castro failed to meet the expectations that cast him as a rangy player with the kind of arm capable of taking away base hits.

Instead, inexcusable mistakes that included eating sunflower seeds while on the field, unawareness of the infield fly rule on one occasion and situational miscues colored his stint as the Cubs’ shortstop.

It didn’t help that Castro replaced fan favorite Ryan Theriot, who didn‘t cover a lot of ground but made all the routine plays. That magnified the former’s fielding errors.

Castro’s poor play in the field overshadowed what he did at the plate, including hitting .307 in 2011 and being selected to three National League All-Star teams (2011, 2012 and 2014).

Hendry, however, did not project Castro as a career shortstop. He knew eventually he would move to either second or third. Hendry said while the Yankees traded for him intending to use him as a second baseman, his versatility allows for spot starts at shortstop or third base should manager Joe Girardi choose to do so.

“He earned some criticism,” Hendry said. “When you make some mental mistakes, you deserve to wear that a little bit. We all knew him, knew he wasn’t a bad kid. He’s a good kid and he cares and he’s a good teammate.”

Castro’s lowest moment came when struggles at the plate prompted a benching in August of last season. Though Maddon did not characterize the move as a benching at the time, Castro was effectively taken out of the everyday lineup.

Addison Russell was moved from second base to shortstop for what would end up being the remainder of the season. Kyle Schwarber was inserted into left field and Chris Coghlan moved from left field to second base. Castro got some opportunities to start at second for the Cubs and eventually worked his way back into the everyday lineup.

In September and October, Castro hit .369/.400/.655. He started all nine games for the Cubs in the postseason.

“After he went to second base, the bat seemed to come back around,” Hendry said. “I thought Joe Maddon did a really nice job handling the last couple months and, in fairness to Starlin, he didn’t pout.

“He went through his ups and downs and I think all those things will prepare him to do well in New York.”

New York might be more unforgiving than Chicago, but Castro is certain to play under less scrutinized circumstances in 2016. With players like Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran in the lineup, Castro will be less of a focal point.

If Castro does become a star in New York and hits over .300, which is well within in his capabilities, he will have eased into the role—not been thrust into it.

In fact, the 2016 season will give Castro his best opportunity to put up gaudy numbers.

With the top of the Yankees’ order set, Castro is likely to slot lower in the lineup. Though the team hasn’t specifically said where Castro might hit, he figures to see several early at-bats hitting eighth. In 113 career at-bats in that spot, Castro has hit .319/.402/.451.

He has always had star power and been capable of carrying a team with his bat. Castro was just restricted by the limitations of a rebuilding Cubs team early in his career. He may be meant to be a star. But it has to be on his terms.

While Castro was pegged as such in Chicago, he is likely to be most successful living in the shadows of a star-studded lineup in New York.


Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.

Seth Gruen covers baseball for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @SethGruen.

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Starlin Castro Trade Is High-Reward Risk Yankees Can Afford to Take

The New York Yankees have taken a second base situation that impressed nobody and have addressed it with a trade that doesn’t seem to be satisfying everybody.

But if you’re among those who are on the fence, rest assured. The Yankees have had worse ideas.

If you’re just now joining us, the Yankees acquired second baseman Starlin Castro in a trade with the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night. Joel Sherman of the New York Post first reported the deal in the wake of Chicago’s signing of veteran utility man Ben Zobrist, and the team confirmed it shortly thereafter.

Alongside Adam Warren, the player to be named later in the deal is veteran infielder Brendan Ryan, per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. He was most certainly expendable. But after Warren did such a fine job in a swingman role in 2015, his expendability is up for debate.

In the meantime, the Yankees are getting a 25-year-old with a track record that features triumph and frustration in roughly equal measure.

There’s the good, which is that Castro is a three-time All-Star with a .281 career batting average. And there’s the bad, which is that Castro has been a subpar hitter in two of the last three seasons and has generally been about as up-and-down as a human pogo stick his entire career.

Which player are the Yankees going to get? It’s hard to say, frankly. But we can give them this much credit: They’re not wrong for wanting to find out.

You know what’s important in this situation? Context. Only context can tell us that even if Castro doesn’t improve the Yankees’ situation at second base, it’ll be hard for him to make it any worse.

Ever since Robinson Cano followed the smell of coffee and cash to Seattle two winters ago, things have been pretty rough for the Yankees at second base. According to FanGraphs, Yankees second basemen rank 29th in MLB in wins above replacement over the last two seasons. Gross.

Another important bit of context is what Castro means for the Yankees from a bigger-picture perspective. They’ve been trying to get cheaper, younger and more athletic. Call it a mission statement, one that Yankees president Randy Levine repeated mere hours before the Castro trade went down.

“I think at the end of the day, this is becoming a young players’ game, and I think it’s important to recognize that,” Levine said Tuesday afternoon, via Brian Heyman of Newsday. “I think that it’s been shown that you don’t need a $200-million payroll to win because I believe, except for us in 2009, nobody’s come close to that.”

As a middle infielder who’s only heading into his age-26 season, Castro is plenty young and athletic. And with roughly $40 million owed to him over the next four seasons, he’s not outrageously expensive.

Ergo, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman saying (via Bruce Levine of 670 The Score) Castro “fills our needs at second base and our vision moving forward.”

Of course, where this notion goes out on a bit of a limb is the reality that Castro is a recent convert to second base. He’s a shortstop by trade and has only been playing second base on a regular basis since Cubs skipper Joe Maddon moved him there in August 2015.

The experiment went pretty well, though. Castro played what the advanced metrics rated as passable defense, and his bat caught fire to the tune of a .353 average and .968 OPS over his final 44 games.

As we discussed a few weeks ago, there are tangible explanations for Castro’s hot finish. He started making contact much more frequently, and pretty good contact to boot:

Maddon attributed Castro’s hot hitting to an improved focus on the moment. Also, Matt Goldman of Beyond the Box Score highlighted a mechanical adjustment that erased one of Castro’s big weaknesses at the plate. If he holds on to these changes, maybe his hot finish will prove to be something.

But lest anyone get too excited, said hot finish is best taken with a few grains of salt.

Castro was definitely good the last time he was on the field, but not over a particularly large sample size. Certainly not large enough to completely overrule the rest of his track record, anyway.

And as far as that goes, Castro’s inconsistent results are just what’s on the surface.

On defense, Castro has long been plagued by mental and physical lapses that have dragged down his ratings. On offense, he’s an aggressive swinger who doesn’t take enough walks or hit for enough power to justify his good-not-great contact habit.

Given all this, it must be understood that the Yankees’ deal for Castro is not a sure thing. It’s an upside play. And as I proposed a few weeks ago, it arguably made more sense for the Yankees to simply let Rob Refsnyder be their upside play at second base. Maybe he didn’t offer as much reward, but he certainly offered less risk.

Even still, this is not a time for ranting and raving.

After all, there is no denying that the Yankees are fulfilling their desire to get younger and more athletic with this trade. And though there’s more risk involved in rolling the dice on Castro than there would have been with Refsnyder, at least the Yankees minimized the risk.

They’re not going to miss Ryan. And though Warren was an underrated asset in 2015, the Yankees didn’t necessarily have a role for him. He didn’t have a home in their 2016 starting rotation, and as such, he would have been slotted for long relief in the bullpen. Rather than let him waste away, the Yankees sold high on him.

As for Castro’s contract, the roughly $40 million he’s owed over the next four years is likely less than they would have had to pay Howie Kendrick or Daniel Murphy in free agency. That’s without even considering the lost draft pick that would have accompanied either one of them. Or the fact that both are on the wrong side of 30.

The Yankees are indeed taking a risk with Castro. If his hot 2015 finish turns out to be more of a blip rather than the start of something big, he’ll go back to being his usual frustrating self. That would inspire a good amount of rabbling.

The potential reward, however, is definitely there. Castro is young and athletic, and the end of 2015 wasn’t the only time he’s ever been good. The Yankees did not pay through the nose to find out if he can be good again in one of their uniforms.

Meet the new second baseman. Maybe not the same as the old second basemen.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Starlin Castro to Yankees: Latest Trade Details, Comments and Reaction

The Chicago Cubs nabbed utility man Ben Zobrist on a four-year, $56 million deal Tuesday, according to USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale, and they wasted no time finding a taker for infielder Starlin Castro once that deal was finalized. 

The New York Post‘s Joel Sherman was first with the news of Chicago’s trade with the New York Yankees, and he broke down the move from both sides: 

MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince confirmed the deal shortly before the Yankees made it official. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported pitcher Adam Warren and infielder Brendan Ryan were shipped to the Cubs in return for Castro. 

Since debuting with the Cubs in 2010, Castro has been selected to the All-Star Game three times (2011, 2012 and 2014). But after batting .292 with 65 RBI while tying a career high with 14 home runs in 2014, Castro experienced a bit of a down year. 

Over 151 appearances, Castro batted .265 with 11 home runs and 69 RBI while stealing just five bases. Additionally, Castro’s offensive wins above replacement total dipped from 3.0 in 2014 to 0.9 in 2015, according to Baseball-Reference.com

“You know how baseball is,” Castro said on July 21, according to ESPN.com’s Jesse Rogers. “It’s up and down. I have to keep grinding it out.”

While those numbers were concerning to a degree, it’s evident the Yankees saw an opportunity to snag a 25-year-old talent entering his prime who’s under team control through 2020. 

According to Spotrac.com, Castro is due $7 million in 2016, $9 million in 2017, $10 million in 2018 and $11 million in 2019 before he’s due a $16 million club option in 2020. 

Jack Curry of the YES Network broke down the financial impact of Tuesday’s deal: 

Furthermore, Castro experienced a revival at the plate throughout the second half of the season. Following the All-Star break, Castro hit .295 with a .319 on-base percentage. He primarily played second base for the last two months of the season, which means Zobrist will likely fill in there while Addison Russell starts at shortstop for the Cubs.

With the Yankees, Castro is expected to start at second base since Didi Gregorius occupies the shortstop post.

His shaky first half to 2015 aside, Castro has proved capable of batting in the .290-.300 range, as the 2010, 2011 and 2014 seasons indicated. And at this rate, it’s realistic to expect those campaigns to be the rule, not the exception. 


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless noted otherwise. 

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Starlin Castro vs. Rob Refsnyder: Who Should Be Yankees’ Future at Second Base?

The guy who used to play there isn‘t a realistic option, but the New York Yankees clearly need something at second base. As opposed to the, you know, nothing they’ve gotten out of the position since Robinson Cano left town two years ago.

As far as their options go, it’s obviously a choice between Starlin Castro and Rob Refsnyder. Or so we can pretend, anyway.

Though Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News has reported that the Yankees are unlikely to acquire an upgrade at second base—a position where they rank 29th in fWAR since 2014—he’s also reported that they have interest in acquiring Castro from the Chicago Cubs.

If the Yankees are going to look beyond their borders for a second baseman, Castro makes sense. Though there are options on the free-agent market, Joel Sherman of the New York Post has noted that the Yankees “pretty much have gotten out of the [free agent] game.”

As such, the Yankees will likely stick with what they have if they don’t swing a deal for Castro. That would be a platoon of Refsnyder and Dustin Ackley, with the hope presumably being that the 24-year-old Refsnyder (who will turn 25 in March) will emerge as an everyday regular for the long haul.

Now, we could just trust general manager Brian Cashman to make the right call…but nah. Why do that when we can decide for ourselves?


The Case for Castro

From afar, the Yankees’ goals for the winter seem clear. They’re looking to continue a youth movement without adding too much money to an already bloated payroll.

When considering these two objectives, you get two more reasons why Castro is a logical target.

Though Castro is a six-year MLB veteran, he’s only headed for his age-26 season. He should have several more prime years left, and he’s already locked up for those seasons at reasonable rates. His contract will pay him about $41.5 million through 2019, with a $16 million option for 2020.

And it shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg to acquire Castro in a trade. Feinsand‘s report mentioned Brett Gardner as a possible exchange for the Cubs, but that’s asking too much. Castro is coming off his second bad season out of three, so his trade value isn‘t at its peak. The Cubs may need to eat some of Castro’s contract to get anything of substance, and they might just as soon move the whole thing.

But of course, Castro’s diminished trade value is also a complication for the Yankees. He’s a young player with a relatively extensive track record, but it’s hard to know what he’s supposed to be.

When Castro has been good, he’s hit around .300 with solid power. This was the case in his first three seasons between 2010 and 2012, and again in 2014 when he hit .292 with 14 homers and a .777 OPS.

But when Castro has been bad, he’s been really bad. This was the case in 2013 and in 2015, in which he hit in the mid-.200s with a sub-.700 OPS. Add in his characteristically subpar defense, and you essentially get a replacement-level player.

Given all this, a trade for Castro would not be a trade for a predictable commodity. It would be a fingers-crossed, pray-to-the-winds upside play, with the hope being that his most consistent days lie ahead.

Fortunately, that’s where there is a peg on which to hang hopes.

On the whole, Castro’s 2015 was indeed lousy. But he finished it on an extremely strong note, hitting .353 with a .968 OPS in his final 44 games after he was moved from shortstop to second base.

This wasn’t an extended stretch of good luck. Castro earned it, putting more balls in play and generally hitting the ball about as well as he had been in 2014:

Certainly, it helped that Castro was basically being used in a platoon role. But Matt Goldman of Beyond the Box Score noted that a mechanical adjustment at the plate also helped Castro take off, and in general he benefited from adjusting his perspective.

“Right now, [Castro’s] in the present tense, man,” said Cubs skipper Joe Maddon in late September, via Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times“That’s what we’ve been shooting for. Just to get him to understand the concept of `one,’ and being involved in the moment. And that’s what he’s doing.”

As far as the metrics are concerned, Castro’s newfound focus on the moment didn’t just help him at the plate. Albeit in a small sample size, he rated as a decent defender at second base. 

So, here’s the nutshell: Castro’s career is the ultimate mixed bag, but he’s young, relatively cheap and is coming off an upswing that suggests he could be ready to take off. A trade for him would be the roll of the dice, but the potential payoff is there.

Question is, are the Yankees better off simply rolling the dice on Refsnyder?


The Reasons for Refsnyder

Remember how we noted that Castro is appealing because he’s young, controllable and cheap? Well, that goes double for Refsnyder

He’s only heading into his age-25 season, is under club control through 2021, and isn‘t eligible for arbitration until after 2018. He should earn considerably less money in the next six seasons than Castro will in the next four. And because he’s already in house, it takes nothing to acquire him.

So, yeah. Refsnyder is clearly the bargain option. At the least, that means moving forward for him is the best way for the Yankees to maintain payroll flexibility. At best, it means he can provide a far better return on investment in the long run.

The tricky part there, though, is that all we can do at this juncture is guess.

Refsnyder owns a .302 career average and an .859 OPS in the majors, but across only 16 games. That’s far too small of a sample size to draw conclusions from, so it’s what he did in the minors and what’s in the scouting report that still hold the most sway. That’s where there’s good and bad. 

Going into 2015, Refsnyder was ranked by Baseball Prospectus as the Yankees’ No. 6 prospect and by Baseball America as the Yankees’ No. 7 prospect. The two publications shared similar concerns, notably that Refsnyder has modest power potential, only average speed and is short of awesome defensively.

This leaves us looking at Refsnyder‘s hit tool, which is fortunately quite good.

His career .290 average and .380 OBP in the minors suggest as much, and that’s not a mirage. MLB.com refers to Refsnyder as the “best pure hitter in New York’s system,” and Baseball America breaks him down like so:

“A short swing and excellent plate discipline help make Refsnyder a strong hitter. He’s balanced at the plate, has good hand-eye coordination and has quick hands that help him catch up to good velocity. He sprays line drives all over the diamond.”

There’s data to back all this up. In his entire pro career, Refsnyder owns an 11.4 BB% and 15.4 K%, a very good balance between walks and strikeouts that reflects his plate discipline and short swing. And thanks to MLB Farm, we can get a solid picture of his all-fields approach:

As for Refsnyder‘s defense, it could be worse. He is a recent convert to the position, after all, and Chris Mitchell of FanGraphs noted this season that Refsnyder‘s defense “isn’t the train wreck it once was.”

As such, there’s hope that Refsnyder can be a high-average hitter who at least holds his own defensively. That’s another way of saying he may have a future as a Daniel Murphy clone.

Which brings us to the nutshell: Refsnyder is much more of an unknown than Castro is, but he’s younger, more controllable and likely cheaper, and he does have the goods to be a consistent regular.


So Then…

Cutting right to the chase, the Yankees should stick with Refsnyder.

They aren’t wrong in having Castro on their radar. They do need an upgrade at second base, and he has the upside to be a major upgrade. Possibly a bigger upgrade than Refsnyder can ever hope to be.

But the risk just isn‘t worth it. 

The Yankees are going to have to give up something to get Castro, and then could be on the hook for roughly $40 million in salary. That’s not a huge cost, but it’s not a small cost either. Especially when compared to Refsnyder, who costs nothing to acquire and who has many cheap years ahead of him.

And though Refsnyder may not have Castro’s upside, he’s a safe bet to at least be a solid regular. His hit tool may be all he has, but a hit tool is a valuable thing. Especially at a time when pitchers have the upper hand like never before.

So, if it seems like the Yankees are lacking a sense of urgency about their second base conundrum, don’t worry. That may be the whole idea.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Starlin Castro Trade Rumors: Latest News, Speculation on Cubs SS’ Future

Chicago Cubs middle infielder Starlin Castro could reportedly be on the move as the organization looks to upgrade other areas of the roster this offseason.  

Continue for updates.

Cubs Discussed Castro With New York Yankees

Friday, Nov. 20

Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reported the Cubs and the Yankees have talked about a potential swap that would include Castro and outfielder Brett Gardner. The natural shortstop would be expected to fill New York’s void at second base.

He gained 38 games worth of experience at the position last year with Chicago. The Cubs juggled a rotation of Castro, Addison Russell and Tommy La Stella at shortstop and second. Moving the three-time All-Star would help lessen the logjam.

After a strong start to his career, the 25-year-old Dominican Republic native has struggled two out of the past three years. He hit .245 with a .284 on-base percentage in 2013 and had a .265 average with a .296 OBP this past season.

He would still represent an upgrade at second base for the Yankees. They are currently projected to start Dustin Ackley or Rob Refsnyder.

Going to a team where his role would be more steady would give Castro a chance to find a comfort zone again and perhaps get back to his peak performance. He hit .283 with 55 extra-base hits, including 14 home runs, in 2012.

Exactly how far along the talks between the Cubs and the Yankees are is unclear. But it sounds like the sides at least have the building blocks in place for future discussions regarding Castro and Gardner.


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MLB Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz on Jonathan Lucroy, Starlin Castro, Clay Buchholz

Free agency is hogging most MLB headlines with players eligible to sign with teams as early as Friday, but there is still plenty of buzz on potential trades that could contribute to the personnel shifts among the baseball landscape.

Here is a glance at the latest names rumored on the trade market in the young offseason.

Brewers Eyeing Rebuild Through Trades

The Milwaukee Brewers finished 26 games under .500 a year removed from a September meltdown that cost them the National League Central after leading the division for 159 days.

They are reportedly in a rebuild mode and have been linked to trade talks surrounding first baseman Adam Lind, catcher Jonathan Lucroy and closer Francisco Rodriguez, per Buster Olney of ESPN The Magazine:

Lucroy is a career .282/.340/.430 hitter and is considered one of the best defensive backstops in the game with a .992 fielding percentage in six seasons. He spent time on the disabled list with a fractured toe in 2015 but has played an average of 118.3 games per year and was fourth in the NL MVP voting in 2014.

Despite speculation, general manager David Sterns indicated last week Lucroy should be back next year, per Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Rodriguez tied for seventh in the majors with 38 saves in 2015 despite the Brewers’ overall struggles. His velocity has steadily decreased from 94.4 miles per hour to 89.7 between 2007 and 2015, per FanGraphs, but he proved he’s still a threat in critical situations with only seven blown saves in parts of three seasons with Milwaukee. 

He’s scheduled to make $11.5 million the next two seasons, per Spotrac, for a team that had the 10th lowest payroll. If the Brewers aren’t winning many games, it may not be practical to keep that kind of financial commitment. 

On Adam Lind, the Brewers exercised the one-year, $8 million option on the first baseman Tuesday, though the team’s RBI leader could be a trade chip, as Olney noted. The Brewers tried moving Lind near the trade deadline last year, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, though talks eventually fell through with the St. Louis Cardinals.

General manager David Stearns hinted the team will be much younger in the coming years, per Adam McCalvy of MLB.com, though how it does so remains to be seen:

I think we recognize that we’re going to have a young roster, whether that’s this year, next year, the year after. We’re going to have a young group of core players for the foreseeable future, and we want to make sure that we surrounded them with members of a staff who are used to and comfortable with working with younger players.

Baseball America ranked the Brewers farm system 19th, which could prompt Stearns to deal a few veterans to free up cash and build a younger foundation to compete in the rugged NL Central, which featured three playoff teams in 2015.


Cubs Shopping Starlin Castro

With a crowded infield full of young and productive talent, the Chicago Cubs‘ Starlin Castro has been linked to trade talks as far back as the 2014 deadline.

A deal never manifested this past year due to Castro’s midseason struggles—he was benched for rookie Addison Russell at shortstop in early August, then became the team’s starting second baseman a week later and through the postseason. But given Castro’s strong finish to the regular season, the NLCS bridesmaids are reportedly shopping the infielder again, per Julie DiCaro of 670 The Score:


Castro hit .353/.373/.588 with six home runs, 23 RBI and just 18 strikeouts after his benching, and the Cubs went 30-17 in that span. His upward trend to finish the season should make him more marketable this offseason. 

Castro is also just 25, a three-time All-Star and has played in at least 150 games in four of the past five seasons. He’d be a valuable asset to most. 

The Cubs can fill Castro’s void with Javier Baez at second and could lean on Tommy La Stella as a backup utility infielder.  

Baez was also rumored in talks—with the San Diego Padres in July, per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports—but he wouldn’t return as much as Castro and is locked up through 2020 at a convenient price, per Rotoworld

A realistic way Castro stays is if the Cubs are unable to re-sign outfielder Dexter Fowler, who became a free agent this week. Chicago could then move the versatile Baez to the outfield and keep Castro at second. But Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com noted that’s unlikely:

Fowler had a big second half, getting on-base about 39 percent of the time, leading to speculation he’ll get a long-term contract after earning $9.5 million last season. The Cubs have stated their offseason goals are to land more pitching, which might not leave room in the budget for Fowler’s return.

The Cubs are the early favorites to win it all in 2016, per Odds Shark, and they may start their hopeful run by dealing Castro to bulk up their roster in more needing areas.


Clay Buchholz Could Be Red Sox Trade Bait

The Boston Red Sox this week picked up the $13 million option on starting pitcher Clay Buchholz, but like the Brewers’ Lind, the move may have been executed to trade the veteran right-hander, per Ian Browne of MLB.com:

Buchholz would be a costly add given his limited return potential. He’s never made 30 starts or reached 200 innings in his nine-year career and has exceeded a 4.50 ERA in two of the last four seasons. 

But Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wrote some teams have already expressed interest in Buchholz behind closed doors:

Buchholz’s name is already rolling off the lips of some mid- to small-market teams who believe they could trade for him if the Red Sox have bigger fish to fry in pursuit of a true ace who can stay healthy.

The Red Sox are reportedly in the market to add an ace via trade or free agency this offseason, per Ricky Doyle of NESN.com, which could slide Buchholz to the back of the rotation and shadow what could be more limited contributions. 

Buchholz went 7-7 in 18 starts last year with a 3.26 ERA, 1.209 WHIP and 8.5 K/9 before being placed on the 15-, then 60-day disabled list in July, which he never returned from. 

One AL GM told Cafardo that when healthy, Buchholz is “as good as anyone out there.”

New president Dave Dombrowski will be as busy as any executive this offseason, and Buchholz may be a chip used to rid a sizable bill from the payroll while yielding a few younger players to build around. 

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MLB Trade Rumors: Breaking Down Buzz on Clay Buchholz and Starlin Castro

The MLB trade market may not really heat up until the big names in free agency are signed, sealed and delivered, but there are still rumors already making the rounds about several players.

Let’s break down some of the juicier buzz. 


Clay Buchholz, SP, Boston Red Sox

Clay Buchholz is an interesting case study. On one hand, he has the intellect and the stuff to be an ace for the Boston Red Sox. But the 31-year-old’s long injury history has prevented him from reaching that status.

And that has teams around baseball wondering if Buchholz could be had for the right price.

According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, “Buchholz’s name is already rolling off the lips of some mid- to small-market teams who believe they could trade for him if the Red Sox have bigger fish to fry in pursuit of a true ace who can stay healthy.”

An unnamed American League general manager broke down the conundrum of bringing aboard Buchholz, via Cafardo:

Everyone is aware of his history, and the potential that he won’t make 80 percent of his starts, but for the price, a lot of teams will make inquiries to Boston about him.

Everyone knows the frustration level he brings, but we all know how good he can be also. He’s reaching that age where he’s learned how to pitch. Sometimes a player or pitcher gets a lot of injuries in the first half of their careers because they haven’t figured out what they need to do to stay healthy. There’s always the hope that Buchholz figures that all out.

If he can, he’s as good as anyone out there.

Buchholz went 7-7 with a 3.26 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 107 strikeouts in 113.1 innings pitched and 18 starts. The two-time All-Star has pitched 170 or more innings just three times in his career. 

The Red Sox don’t need to trade him, of course. After picking up his $13 million option on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press (via ESPN), the team could look to pick up a more reliable ace on the market like David Price or Zack Greinke and keep Buchholz to build a top-tier pitching staff.

Money might become an issue in that case, however, and moving Buchholz could free up funds and bring the Sox a nice young player or two in the process. 


Starlin Castro, 2B, Chicago Cubs

Starlin Castro has the very unfortunate case of being a good player who simply may not have a future in Chicago. The Cubs appear to have the middle of the infield locked down for years to come with Addison Russell and Javier Baez, making Castro the team’s best trade chip.

And, once again, they may look to cash in on it, according to Julie DiCaro of 670 The Score:

Of course, the Cubs have options. One particular option they’ve reportedly discussed, to make room for the trio of Castro, Russell and Baez is to move the young Baez to the outfield, according to Tony Andracki of CSN Chicago.

“The overriding policy is the more versatility, the better,” president of baseball operations Theo Epstein told Andracki, and manager Joe Maddon has never been accused of conventional thinking, so a move to the outfield for Baez seems possible.

Plus, he played all four infield positions during the regular season for the team, so he certainly seems to have the versatility and athleticism to make the move.

In that case, Castro would likely have a place—at least in the short term—at second base. He played well for the team this season, hitting .265 with 11 home runs and 69 RBI, giving the Cubs a nice bat to go along with the big boppers, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.

On the other hand, the Cubs have a wealth of young talent in the outfield, too, so the wise choice might be to simply move a player like Castro and upgrade a bigger need, like adding more quality arms to the rotation. 

Regardless, the team has options. And one of the most likely options still seems to be moving Castro in a trade.


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Starlin Castro’s Agent Denies Client Was Detained for Questioning About Shooting

Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro was reportedly detained by police for questioning on Saturday in the Dominican Republic following a nightclub shooting, though his agent claims he voluntarily spoke with authorities.

Jon Morosi of Fox Sports provides a statement from Castro’s agent:

Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com previously reported that Castro was being held for questioning and the incident left six people injured: 

Mike Axisa of CBSSports.com provided an announcement from Jacobo Mateo Moquette, a police spokesman in the Dominican Republic:

ATTENTION: Some sports media have called me inquiring about Major League Baseball player Starlin Castro. At the moment it is in the Office of Montecristi, where prosecutors questioned him regarding several injured yesterday at the Ocean club where persons involved were very close to him. At the moment I have no more details.

Morosi provides more information from Moquette:

Bob Nightengale of USA Today has details on the reasoning behind the questioning:

This is the second alleged incident involving Castro this month. According to a December 9 report from Latino Fox News, via CBSChicago.com, the Cubs shortstop was “sought for questioning by police in Santo Domingo in connection to a firefight at a nightclub.” 

Castro’s agent Paul Kinzer told CBSChicago.com that his client was cleared by officials of any wrongdoing in the first alleged incident three weeks ago.

“Starlin and his family were in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Kinzer said. “They were at a concert when someone in a black SUV started shooting at a car next to them. Starlin and his family are fine. They are clear of any involvement in this altercation by Dominican officials.”

Castro has spent his entire career with the Cubs, signing with the team in 2006 and making his MLB debut in 2010. Since then, he has appeared in three All-Star games. He signed a seven-year contract extension in August 2012 that runs through 2019 with a team option for 2020. 

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