Should the Mets pay the price for Starlin Castro?

Starlin CastroNot everyone is a Starlin Castro fan. He’s a polarizing player who’s had some character issues in the past, but he is also a four-year veteran on a team that is going very young, very quickly. The quick-batted sensation Javier Baez will be up with the Chicago Cubs soon enough. While Baez has been playing games at second-base, he’s a shortstop by trade. Some think he’s good enough to push Castro out, and that’s where the Mets may be able to take advantage.

Castro is coming off of a bad 2013 where he batted .245 with a meager .284 OBP and .347 SLG. He had only nine stolen bases as compared to the 25 and 22 he put up in his two previous years. A total -.01 fWAR is also not the way to endear oneself to management. But these statistics belie a fantastic player who may have simply had a bad year on a very bad team. Since getting the starting shortstop job in 2010, Castro has been one of the best at his position in the game. His 2011 line was .307/.341/.432 and 2012 saw him go .283/.323/.430. Some may look at 2013 as a harbinger of bad things to come. Take a look at Scott Lindholm’s article here to see how middle infielders with big drops in OBP rarely recover.

However, Castro was a better hitter when he wasn’t being patient, something the Cubs management tried to change last year. Perhaps if they or another team allows Castro to be the free-swinger he was in the past, he may have returned success. But this is far from a certainty.

One big knock on Castro is his defense, which according to metrics does not look too great. He’s a career -2.8 UZR/150 guy. His RngR is something to notice, though, as it is a career 16.8. Keep in mind that UZR/150 is a median stat, while RngR is cumulative, but still it shows that Castro’s range is not the problem, it’s his throwing accuracy. Even if you look at the new Inside Edge Fielding stat, Castro only has a 96% rate with Routine plays, compared to someone like Troy Tulowitzki who has a rate of 97.6%. A 1.6% percentage might not sound like much, but we are talking about routine plays here, and it is the most frequent play a SS can make, so that 1.6% does carry some weight. Additionally, the Fans Scouting Report gives Castro a career 29 rating in Arm Accuracy on a 0-100 scale, while his career Arm Strength rating is 75.

Can you think of anyone else who plays on the left side of the diamond that used to have problems making routine throws? That’s correct, David Wright. He has since reduced those errant throws across the diamond, and is a Gold-Glove caliber defender because of it. Wright credits Tim Teufel with helping to curb those throwing errors, and if Teufel can help teach the 24-year-old Castro a thing or two about repeating throwing mechanics to first or second, then maybe Castro can be the consistent defender he has shown flashes of in the past. It certainly couldn’t hurt.

Castro would obviously be an offensive improvement over Ruben Tejada, so let’s not even get into that. What he could offer is a legitimate leadoff man, in addition to being a stud shortstop. That .325-.340 OBP range he’s displayed in the past might come back with guys like Daniel Murphy, David Wright and Curtis Granderson lining up behind him. Sure, maybe his home run numbers might go down in Citi Field, but that wouldn’t be the key to his game if he was leading off anyway, so who cares.

The real question is what he would cost. The answer is a lot. According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, Castro is still owed $54,142,857 over the next 6 years, which in today’s baseball economy is pittance for an All-Star shortstop. So the money being paid to Castro isn’t the problem, it’s how much of the farm system would it take to drag him away from Chicago. Therein may lie where the Mets can make this happen. According to Jonathan Mayo’s rankings, the Cubs have three pitchers ranked in their Top-10 Prospects; C.J. Edwards and Pierce Johnson who might both make it to Double-A this year, and Arodys Vizcaino, who might be closing games for the Cubs this season. There is some room there for another young stud or two, particularly one who could have impact on the major league club this year. The Mets have a few of those to go around. It might take some combination of Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom, Steve Matz, or Kevin Plawecki (the Cubs don’t have a catcher in their Top-20 Prospects list), but it might be worth it to part with two or three of these players for one in which we are in dramatic need.

This may work out well as Castro has just resumed playing this spring due to a strained right hamstring. Injuries were killing Ike Davis and Lucas Duda’s trade value, and they might be doing the same for Castro. If he takes a couple extra weeks to make it to Chicago, and maybe doesn’t sparkle right away, it’s possible the Mets could scoop him up without having to sell the farm. This is all positive Mets thinking of course, and it’s possible that no deal would be good enough for Theo Epstein, who has a shrewd baseball eye for talent, to part ways with Castro.

But there is no rush to make this happen. Baez has been sent down to start the season, so Castro’s job in Chicago is safe for now. In my opinion, it might be worth it to give up two, possibly even three prospects for Castro, rather then meet the ridiculous asking prices for Nick Franklin or Didi Gregorius. Others might not feel the same. It’s another hat to throw in the ring, and it just proves that there are substantial options out there for the Mets, as opposed to discussing Stephen Drew for the gazillionth time this year.

8 comments for “Should the Mets pay the price for Starlin Castro?

  1. Eraff
    March 25, 2014 at 7:24 am

    Trading a handful of prospects “aaand” paying 10 million dollars a year for this guy?…… that’s something that teams do when they’re established contenders with a missing piece.

    A team that’s afraid of 3 years and 30-36 million of Drew?….The Mets should not give up big propects and a 55 million commitment to Castro.

    The Cubs will wait out his production…his trade value….heck, if he plays well they’l keep him.

  2. Metsense
    March 25, 2014 at 7:41 am

    Castro is coming off a poor season with rumored attitude problems (seen first hand by fellow blogger Chris F). He will cost money and prospects by your own admission. Drew is just money and provides stability on defense. Drew has also had more seasons of higher wOBA than Castro. Drew is the better choice.

    • Chris F
      March 25, 2014 at 2:59 pm

      Drew at this point for sure.

      I cant help but wonder about Asdrubel Cabrera next year though.

      As for Castro, yes my own eyes saw what they saw…a Jordany Valdespin with on/off talent. But it wanst just me…I got this from Jon Taylor at SI”

      “Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro has developed a bit of a reputation for being less than attentive during baseball games. Take, for example, the time he was caught by ESPN’s cameras during a Sunday night game against St. Louis facing entirely the wrong direction as a pitch was being thrown. Or the time he failed to run after a groundball after diving at it, allowing two runs to score. Or the time he failed to turn a double play because he forgot how many outs there were, a move that Cubs manager Dale Sveum called “the last straw.” Well, that comment came a year ago, so it clearly wasn’t the last last straw. Saturday against the Cardinals, however, may finally be it for Castro and Sveum.

      In the top of the fifth inning of the Cubs’ matinee, with the bases loaded for St. Louis and one out, Castro caught a fly ball in shallow left field off the bat of Matt Carpenter. The infield fly rule was called, but Castro, apparently believing that he’d just made the third out, simply held onto the ball and didn’t immediately throw it in. Jon Jay noticed, and the rest …” (is history as he tagged up and scored).

  3. James Preller
    March 25, 2014 at 8:37 am

    People continue to talk about signing Drew, but what evidence do you see that the Wilpons actually have the money?

    I’m not seeing it.

    It’s a pretend option.

    As for Castro, there’s a lot of issues here. His problems with plate discipline are well-known, and he has not responded well to the Cubs emphasis on pitch selection. He’s not built that way, and seems to need a degree of freedom. That is: an extremely bad fit for Sandy Alderson and the NY Mets. The contract is expensive and if things continue going as they have, it could become an albatross for the team that’s tied to it. There’s a lot red flags with this guy. Also, there’s assumptions in this piece about him being a legitimate leadoff man, returning to form. Are we sure about that? And comparing a guy with his documented attitude issues to David Wright is quite a stretch. I can’t think of two players who are more dissimilar.

    Until the Cubs are giving this guy away, as well as eating some of the contract, I don’t see Castro as remotely an option for the Mets.

  4. Jerry Grote
    March 25, 2014 at 9:13 am

    Congratulations, Patrick. On the whole, a well-written piece and well-researched.

    I think you’ve undervalued Castro; SS’s signed to team friendly (presuming performance) contracts that are young and have shown an ability to stay on the field, are rubies in the crown. A two-time AS that had 8 WAR at a premium position before he was 24 will come at the cost of several major league pieces, including a starting pitcher (Gee), a reliever (Torres), and possibly a AA type pitcher (Matz).

    Given that, I would say that time is NOT on the Mets side for a Castro trade. If he performs anywhere near to 2011-2012, he becomes basically untouchable.

    That said, did you read in the link where Lindholm quotes Bill James? “Players that hit in the minors will hit in the majors. Always.” LOL. Phone is ringing, I think it’s Brett Wallace.

    • Jerry Grote
      March 25, 2014 at 9:23 am

      Curious to see David Groveman weigh in on this; he and I are pretty much diametrically opposed on valuing Castro.

      My last word on Castro … take a gander at the comps to him at age 22 and age 23. They are all pretty much middle infielders, most of them played the rest of their careers as stars if not HOFers.

      THAT guy, you don’t get for the likes of Montero and some magic beans from A/AA. If Starlin Castro is putting up a 780 OPS by June, the Cubs will be in the World Series by 2018. Because they’ll be able to trade either him, or Baez, for a shit ton of talent.

      • Stephen
        March 26, 2014 at 2:40 am

        Being a young and steady regular in the majors does come in no small part to a lot of talent but in this era so much of it depends on position openings, health, and how fast an organization is willing to move you through the system. Sure, there’s a Mike Trout every so often who is so much better than the league that he forces the issue as a teenager but those are becoming more and more rare. I do think Castro is talented but he’s not one of those guys.

        So while I see your point, I don’t think Castro is a star. I really don’t. Good player? Sure. Better than anything we have? Ditto. I don’t like the defense, the walk rate is abysmal, and I’m tired of people quoting how many hits he had. He doesn’t get on base all that much more than Ruben Tejada. The stolen bases are a wash. He’s not a good defender and last year was awful. I see him as a very talented player who hasn’t played well for a season and a half. It’s a lot to give up a package worth of players (and don’t think you can get him without giving up Syndergaard because it just isn’t happening) plus paying the salary. I don’t see him as a fit and honestly I’m not a huge fan. Very solid shortstop and better than Ruben but if I’m paying that sort of premium, I’m getting myself a Lindor.

  5. March 25, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    I’m really not sure why fans aren’t willing to give Wilmer Flores a shot. That being said, if he completely flops defensively in the minors this season: go all in for Castro.

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