Quick Hitter: Starlin Castro for Zack Wheeler

Starlin CastroRecently on the radio and in the local papers, the Chicago Cubs Starlin Castro has come up as a player the Mets should pursue. This is a direct result of the Oakland A’s acquiring pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs for a package of prospects headlined by short stop Addison Russell. The trade left the Cubs with a plethora of top notch infield prospects in Javier Baez (currently playing shortstop at Triple-A, but more than likely will convert to second base), power hitting third base prospect Kris Bryant (currently slugging his way through Triple-A) and the aforementioned Russell, also slated to join the Triple-A club. With the Cubs clearly in a rebuild mode and with so many Triple-A level infield bats set to join incumbent power hitting first baseman Anthony Rizzo in the near future for the Cubs, it appears inevitable that Castro will be traded.

The deal posited on the radio and in the paper would be centered on trading Zach Wheeler to the Cubs for Castro, with other prospects potentially involved. It’s an interesting concept. The Cubs are loaded with hitting prospects, but do not have much in terms of pitching depth. The Mets have tremendous pitching depth, but are light on major league ready positional prospects in positions of need. Castro is also having, arguably, his best season as a pro. Castro is on pace to hit over 40 doubles, 20 plus home runs and knock in 90 plus runs on a bad team. That is big time production for a shortstop. He is currently boasting the highest OPS of his career and is also having his best fielding season. Castro is also only 24 years old, loaded with talent and on a reasonable contract as he’s due 43 million dollars through his next five seasons, with a 16 million dollar team option in 2020, his age 30 season.

Is Castro worth Wheeler though? Such a move could depend on what the Mets do with Daniel Murphy. If the Mets retain Murphy, then it’s in the Mets best interest to hold onto Wheeler and either give Wilmer Flores the chance to play shortstop or address the situation in the offseason when a multitude of free agent shortstops will be available to help bridge the gap to some shortstop talent lower in the Mets system. The problem with trading Wheeler without getting back a major league pitcher is that the Mets pitching depth at Triple-A is uncertain right now. Noah Syndergaard doesn’t appear to be ready for the majors at this time and Rafael Montero appears to need more time as well, if he’s even a long term starting option. Darin Gorski is a solid left hander in Las Vegas, but it’s uncertain whether he’s a major league starting pitcher. Steven Matz has just entered Double-A and Jon Niese’s injury makes the pitching depth on the team a little light.

However, if Murphy is dealt to the Blue Jays or Giants and the Mets get back an outfielder and a Triple-A/Major League level starting pitcher, then moving Wheeler for Castro would be a nice move. That would open a slot for Flores at second base and could add some nice pop to the middle of the order, with Castro and (hopefully) Flores providing some much needed run production after David Wright and around Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda.

Trading a pitcher with Wheeler’s upside is very hard to consider, but the question would have to be asked whether the Mets can truly get better without eventually sacrificing one of these young arms. Next year will bring back Matt Harvey and Jeremy Hefner, with Syndergaard on the horizon and Matz not far behind. When you add that to Niese, Jacob deGrom, Montero, Dillon Gee, Bartolo Colon (if he isn’t traded) and whatever other starting depth the Mets add, there is a lot of pitching on this team starting next year.

With all of that in mind, do the Mets think about dealing the tremendous upside of Wheeler for a strong hitting, young shortstop with equally tremendous upside in Castro? It’s a very interesting idea, but in the end, probably shouldn’t occur. The Mets should promote Flores and play him every day. Flores’ bat might end up being the equal of Castro and the fielding difference would be negligible. Unfortunately, the Mets seem to be ignoring their best hitting prospect or seem to have a total lack of confidence in his ability to play shortstop, despite the fact that he showed he could handle the position during the few times he got to play it in the major leagues. The bottom line is, the Mets might have a Castro like bat (not player, Castro is much faster than Flores) already on the 40 man roster, without having to sacrifice Wheeler.

Every year around this time, these kinds of stories pop up and they often range from intriguing to laughable and back again. In this case, although the concept is intriguing, the Mets should look into their own system first and give Flores the chance to either shine or show that he’s not a full time major leaguer. If Flores wasn’t available, then dealing from their depth of pitching for a more proven commodity in Castro makes a lot of sense, but since they might have someone just as good, they can’t sacrifice a talent like Wheeler.

19 comments for “Quick Hitter: Starlin Castro for Zack Wheeler

  1. July 7, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    I would like to know how many of Castro’s home runs were hit in the friendly confines of Wrigley?

    • Jerry Grote
      July 7, 2014 at 12:31 pm

      He’s roughly a .720 SS outside of Wrigley. When you look at how he’s done against the NLE, he’s hit in Philly, in FL, and at Citifield. Not so much in ATL and DC.

      Otherwise his splits are very consistent. Not much to poke a hole at. And I would say that the splits at home/away for Castro seem consistent with the splits of any player … most guys do hit better at home than they do away.

      (post script: obviously, with the caveat that all the NLE stats are with small sample sizes)

  2. Stephen
    July 7, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    That would be one of the worst trades in Mets history.

    Starlin Castro is not a good baseball player.

    Zack Wheeler is spelled correctly in this sentence. You can remember it by thinking of ZacK with a “k”. “k” like strikeout.

    You’re missing Arismendy Alcantara and 2B incumbent Darwin Barney in your analysis of Chicago infielders.

    Castro is having a better year than he has in the past but he’s below average defensively and last year was 30% below league average offensively. Zack Wheeler has one of the top average fastballs in baseball and those pitchers, historically, especially recently, are among the better starters in baseball. Forget the W-L record this year and look at his peripherals. He’s been pretty good.

    He’s also cheaper. I’ll stick with Ruben until a logical SS trade comes around. If you want to take Wheeler and move him to Cleveland for Lindor, then you have my attention. Cheap, elite shortstop with leadoff and gold glove potential. Look there instead.

    Thanks for the article.

    Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post, as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

    • Jerry Grote
      July 7, 2014 at 12:28 pm

      No, he really hasn’t been “pretty good”. “Pretty good” is a #2 pitcher, easily one of the top 30 pitchers in the NL. Don’t let yesterday’s performance fool you.

      Look at the history of Zack Wheeler in total. Understand that he’s never had control of the baseball, and at this point he still doesn’t show any ability to control it on a regular, sustained level.

      At some point, players stop being prospects and you have what you have. Squint a little, and maybe he’s one of the top 60 pitchers in our league now. Not a stitch better, and that takes squinting.

      • Rick
        July 7, 2014 at 1:55 pm

        You’ve forgotten that Zack is in his first full major league season — cut him some slack, not everyone is going to be Matt Harvey or Jose Fernandez. Meanwhile, Castro’s been around the block, and is a seasoned veteran. Yet, his batting average has dropped since his debut, as has his OBA. His slugging has increased as it should due to added strength and mass. Yet, that added mass is detrimental to his defense which is poor enough that I would say he shouldn’t even be a shortstop

    • Scott Ferguson
      July 7, 2014 at 12:36 pm

      My bad on misspelling the first name.

      I agree about the deal although I wouldn’t jump for Lindor either. Wheeler has ace stuff and I still think Flores could potentially be a quality bat at short. If it were up to me, Tejada would be benched and Flores would play everyday until he proves that he can or can’t be the answer at short.

      • Jerry Grote
        July 7, 2014 at 1:19 pm

        “Wheeler has ace stuff”.

        Based on what? Look at his numbers as they stand today. Has he made some sort of quantum leap? No.

        In 400 innings in the minor leagues, he walked 4 batters per 9. In 200 major league innings, he’s walked 4 per nine.

        His WHIP is consistent throughout his career. His strikeouts, adjusted for how inflated this number is across the major leagues, are really only average.

        “Stuff” is only important insofar as you control it, and get results from it. I see neither.

  3. Jerry Grote
    July 7, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    ” a talent like Wheeler”?
    He’s a #3 pitcher, if that. You are talking about a 24 year old SS, that is the 2nd best hitting SS in the NL, a three-time All Star that has been able to play 160+ games a year. He is likewise signed to a very, very, very affordable contract at his current output.

    In return, you offer someone that has been unable to play SS. Someone that has produced at the ML level, blatantly ugly statistics. By the point Castro was the same age as Flores is today, he had been to the All Star game twice, owned a nearly .300 batting average in the NL, with nearly 2000 plate appearances.

    Its possible, one day, Wilmer Flores will be able to play some position in the NL. It won’t be SS. And its unlikely that the Cubs will willing to take that project known as Zack Wheeler off our hands for an established SS with over 10 WAR on his resume at the age of 24, signed to a contract through the most productive years of his life.

    But IF they do, I hope Sandy is wise enough to race to the phone to say yes.

    • Jerry Grote
      July 7, 2014 at 12:48 pm

      to respond to my own post …

      hell.

      Zack Wheeler is the #3 pitcher … *on our team, pitching right now (including Niese)*. He’s not notably better than Gee. Not notably better than Harvey. You could make the case that he’s on par with Hefner.

      So … if he’s our #3 now, and there are possibly as many as three (four? Noah?) that might be better than him on our 39-49 squad … what does that make him?

      Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post, as that is a violation of our Comment Policy.

      • Chris F
        July 7, 2014 at 1:00 pm

        I agree completely JG. I’ll go as far as to say Wheeler is projecting to be a back end starter with 3 as his ceiling. If everyone is bamboozled by his “projection” then Id trade hime for about anyone (major reservations about castro though). Everything else has been pure hype. Comparing Wheeler to Ryan is a tad premature if you ask me. In a year of MLB starts he seems to be unable to know where anything he throws is going. Worst of all, he was no different in LV. Ace’s dont have 2 poor outings followed by an ok one. He still is an 18 or so pitch per inning, 5-6 inning starter. No part of that is “ace” even if flashes occasional brilliance. Is Aaron Harang an ace? umm, no. Neither is Wheeler.

  4. Chris F
    July 7, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    I think the answer will be no for a few reasons, mostly really good ones.

    1. I read that Theo called Castro’s agent and said he was the cornerstone of the Cubs future, and that he was not really being shopped around.

    2. Although my personal feelings have softened given what Renteria has done for Castro, listening to Keith discuss this on yeterday’s telecast cemented what my observations are. He’s a attitude with a bat and glove. He regularly has missed key points in the game with his glove off, back to the play, or brain switched to “off”. When I saw them play last season, he was last in the dugout and last out of the dugout between innings. He looked as if playing SS was third or fourth most important act of the day.

    Keith really called him out, it confirmed I was not alone.

    3. Castro’s plate philosophy couldnt be further from Aldersonian batting theory.

    4. 2 Chicago baseball talking heads this morning took Castro –> Mets trade on specifically and estimated Syndergaard would just be the start…the Mets would need quite a bit more than that.

    On the other hand…

    What about Wheeler for Addisson Russell straight up? I think the high upside of Wheeler is still mostly hype (I dont want to hear how he man-handled the Rangers either, one of the worst hitting teams in the MLB with something like 2-18 record in last handful of games).

      • Jerry Grote
        July 7, 2014 at 1:41 pm

        OK … my last Castro post for awhile, but …

        Keith is working off a pretty limited sample. I happen to remember a game against the Mets where Keith was broadcasting, and Castro turned in a couple of knuckleheaded plays.

        They got compounded by poor at bats. As I recall, this was maybe two years ago. If anyone had happened to see our own brilliant 2B, they might say he doesn’t understand the game, or he can’t play 2B.

        But on top of this, for a sportscaster to say that someone that has played as much as Castro has (if he completes this year, it will approach 800 games) – more, I believe, than any other player in the last five years – to say he doesn’t “work hard” or whatever euphemism he wants to toss out there? A bit short sighted if you ask me.

        I’ll say it again. 11,000 pitches by time he is 24 – *in the major leagues*. Keith has seen him play? What? 10 times? 15? But he’s “seen enough”.

        He’s the sharpest guy I’ve listened to in baseball and I have deep respect for Hernandez. He just might be wrong this time.

        Consider the importance of getting on the field, and this: I’m willing to bet that Castro has produced more firepower than our LFer, CFer, RFer, 2B, SS, or C over the last five years.

    • Jerry Grote
      July 7, 2014 at 1:11 pm

      I heard Keith say that yesterday too.

      Regarding having his head in the game … remember, he’s having his age *24* season right now. Most of that stuff occurred when he was 21 or 22. I think something has to be given for age, and for a talent this large I’m hoping that can change.

      Regarding his Aldersonian approach. If we start from the perspective that walks are a by product, not a result, then I’m not sure we know whether or not Castro has that approach. I don’t see the “hard ball hit” quotient and I don’t think that’s readily available.

      But I will point out that at this point in his life, he’s already seen nearly 11,000 pitches. I think someone that, by age 24, has seen that much can adapt a bit.

      Would I go Russell for Wheeler? Mmmaybe. I’d go Russell before Lindor, and probably before any other SS prospect, that’s for sure. But that would place Theo as trading two established pitchers for one maybe #2 or #3 pitcher, and an outfield A+ ball player. I think he’d want more.

      Bottom line is this deal doesn’t get done (for either SS) for just Wheeler. He’s not enough, not yet. And by time he is enough, we won’t trade him.

  5. blastingzone
    July 7, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    Jerry Grote says Wheeler’s a #3 starter if that! I would like to know what pitcher
    has he been watching because its not the same pitcher I have? Wheeler has above average stuff including a great fastball and a excellent curve and not to
    mention a really good slider! Is he a #1 the jury’s still out but he has the stuff
    and talent to be #1 or at least a #2 at the worse! His command and his lack of
    experience are the only things holding him back! Nolan Ryan had big time
    command problems and we know how that turned out! You don’t trade a pitcher
    with Wheelers talent and he’s only 24 years old unless you want to regret it
    for the years to come like Ryan!! I don’t think Castro’s worth it and as Keith has
    pointed out he doesn’t hustle and give it his all every play! I would rather give
    Flores a full time shot at SS and if he doesn’t work out fix it in the off season!!
    The mets aren’t going anywhere this year so this is the perfect time to give
    Flores a real shot, oh I forgot Terry said they don’t have the time to give young
    players a chance their trying to win games!!

  6. July 7, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    I think Castro to the Mets is a pipe dream.

    • Jerry Grote
      July 7, 2014 at 4:59 pm

      me too, David.

      Your assessment early on for the Cubs, to me, was bang on. Teams don’t trade centerpieces simply to fill other needs and Starlin Castro is one of two centerpieces on that team. Ultimately Bryant will be a third.

      What a team. They’ll probably put Russell at 2B, stick Bryant at 3B, Rizzo at 1B and Castro at SS. Faaahkme.

  7. James booth
    July 7, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    The thing that worries me about Castro is that he is a complementary piece and we need a “piazza”. we wouldn’t know what to do with him. Where do we bat him. 3rd? Clean up? I don’t think he is really that type of player. He doesn’t run much either or get on base enough to lead off. This reminds me of the soriano for Reyes trade rumors. I’d rather work with what we got, if we have to trade wheeler. Now, if we are talking kemp or Tulo- someone with star quality, that’s a different story.

  8. JEFF POSNER
    November 17, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    i got a better idea wright is so happy we got cuddyear why not have wright play some and i mean some ss for us this year with flores then we can tell everyone else to go to hell

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