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This isn’t the time for Cubs to commit to Starlin Castro

Aug 17, 2012, 2:32 PM EDT

Starlin Castro Getty Images

Word came down from CSNChicago.com’s David Kaplan last night that the Cubs were working on a long-term deal with Starlin Castro said to be for six years or more.

A six-year extension running from 2013-18 would buy out all of Castro’s arbitration seasons and his first two-years of free agency. One would imagine it’d come in somewhere in the $45 million-$50 million range (Andrew McCutchen had the same amount of service time when he got $51.5 million for six years this spring), and even at that lofty price tag, there’s a good chance it’d save the Cubs some money in the long run.

I still don’t think it’s the right move, not when Castro still hasn’t come close to making the most of his talent.

The fact that Castro has yet to become a star at age 22 isn’t damning in itself. But the lack of development is. Castro’s walk rate is down and his strikeout rate is up this year. He’s hitting just .276 after coming in at .300 and .307 in his first two seasons. His homers are up, but his doubles are way down. He’s still a lousy basestealer for all of his speed. His defense has improved, and he’s cut back on the mental errors in the field, but he still makes more than most.

The last thing the Cubs need is a complacent Castro. They need him motivated to become the very best player he can be, and handing him $45 million now seems a pretty lousy way to accomplish that.

Maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps Castro can get his money and still turn into a star anyway. If so, the Cubs might stand to save $10 million per year in 2017 and ’18 by locking him into such a deal now.

The Cubs, though, shouldn’t be worrying too much about their 2017-18 payrolls just yet. I think it’d make more sense to see what happens over the next year. If Castro improves, then it may well cost the team an extra $10 million-$20 million to get an extension done with him then. But at least they’ll have a better idea what they’re paying for.

  1. icanspeel - Aug 17, 2012 at 2:45 PM

    I don’t think it’s a bad move if the price is right since 1) SS isn’t a position flooded with talent and 2) He has shown promise, and if he has a break out year next year before the deal the price will go way up and 3) He is only 22 and 4) Get it done if the price is right

  2. redguy12588 - Aug 17, 2012 at 2:54 PM

    Only sign him to an extension now if you think this is a one year slump. Just a note that his OBP has declined every year in the majors. He’s got no plate patience, and now he’s not hitting for a high enough average nor with enough power to justify it.

    His BABIP may be down, but his K% has gone up and his BB% is below 5%, that’s scary.

    • Alex K - Aug 17, 2012 at 3:24 PM

      The .039 point drop in his BABIP is pretty big. The last two years it has been in the mid .340’s which I think is closer to his actual talent. Granted, he’s hitting more flyballs, but not a ton more based off his previous years percentages. His walks are down and K’s are up, but neither is alarmingly off what he has done in the past. To me, this looks more like a case of poor luck on balls in play. Luck isn’t the whole explanation, but I think it’s a big part of it.

  3. dan1111 - Aug 17, 2012 at 2:56 PM

    Is Castro lazy? That’s what you appear to be implying, but a drop in his batting average is hardly proof of that. In any case, the Cubs, not you, are in a position to actually judge his work ethic.

    • kkolchak - Aug 17, 2012 at 3:21 PM

      Because they did such a great job evaluating Soriano when it should have been clear from is atrocious performance in the 2006 WBC that if he wasn’t playing for a big payday he’d start mailing it in, which he’s essentially been doing ever since they gave him the big bucks.

      • Alex K - Aug 17, 2012 at 3:29 PM

        1. Different front office personel
        2. The WBC is a tiny sample of games to base an opinion on.
        3. Soriano’s first two years with the Cubs were pretty good.

      • aisle424 - Aug 17, 2012 at 3:37 PM

        Anybody who is associated with the team and anybody who covers the team, including his biggest critic, David Kaplan, will tell you that Soriano is one of the hardest workers on the team. Period. He’s not mailing anything in. His body has failed him. Hate the contract, hate the results, but that is not because he was mailing anything in. The “Ballplayer X is lazy because I don’t like the results” is what is lazy.

      • kkolchak - Aug 17, 2012 at 4:17 PM

        I’m getting down-voted big time, too, but it matters not. As a lifelong White Sox fan, I am very much in favor of the Cubs offering long extensions to players like Castro.

    • madhatternalice - Aug 17, 2012 at 3:32 PM

      How dare you give analysis, Matthew!

      His drop in batting average, his reduced hustle, his mental errors….these things add up.

      Spoiler alert: they broadcast baseball on television now, so everyone can have an informed opinion!

      • Alex K - Aug 17, 2012 at 3:45 PM

        Spoiler Alert: Bad analysis exists. And implying that a player is lazy without first hand knowledge or direct quotes on work ethic is bad analysis.

      • madhatternalice - Aug 17, 2012 at 4:17 PM

        @Alex Matthew didn’t say Castro was lazy. I didn’t say Castro was lazy. dan1111 asserted that Matthew was implying laziness, but I didn’t read it that way.

        So…way to prove a point that didn’t need to be made.

      • Alex K - Aug 17, 2012 at 4:47 PM

        The tone of Matthew’s post implied that Castro is lazy from my point of view. You can disagree, but I’m standing by my statement that this was bad analysis.

        Castro is not perfect. He has too many lapses in concentration, but that is a far cry from saying that he needs the carrot of money hanging out in front of him to keep him motivated.

      • madhatternalice - Aug 17, 2012 at 5:00 PM

        @Alex Doesn’t matter whether or not I disagree. The author himself, in a comment below, wrote this:

        I don’t know that Castro is lazy, but I think he lacks concentration, at the very least.

        I don’t think my comments qualified as any sort of revelation. Just google “starlin castro benched”

        So, you can continue to believe something the writer himself has said isn’t true.

        Regarding the actual extension, I don’t know. If it was me, I wouldn’t hand out a six year contract to someone who is regressing. It’s not a question of “he may be good, or he may be awful.” There just isn’t really a need to make it such a long contract right now. Lock him in for three years. If he’s returns to a solid form, then great. If he doesn’t, then you’re not stuck with him.

      • Alex K - Aug 17, 2012 at 5:15 PM

        “I don’t know that Castro is lazy” isn’t exactly saying he doesn’t think Castro is lazy, or that he didn’t imply that Castro is lazy. Nothing he wrote in the comments changes my view of the articles tone.

        With the extension – Castro isn’t going to break the bank in arbitration, so why would you extend him if you’re only going to cover the arbitration years? The real discount is in buying the free agent years at the end of the contract when Castro is 26 & 27.

      • madhatternalice - Aug 17, 2012 at 5:24 PM

        That’s fine. You’re free to perceive the article in any way you so choose. We’re done talking about that aspect of it, though.

        Well, multi-year contracts are the new pink. From Votto and Pujols to Jones and Zimmerman to Mauer and Gonzales, teams are doing what they can to lock in a “face” of the team for the next six-12 years. This gives them marketing safety and a single individual who can represent the team to the public. The downside, of course, is that as these players regress, or get hurt, or just get old, those contracts become albatrosses. By all means, Cubs, go nuts and sign Castro. Just don’t pretend that he’s a sure thing, or that this is a “low-risk” contract.

      • Alex K - Aug 17, 2012 at 6:44 PM

        Is there really such a thing as a “low-risk” multi-year contract? No player is a “sure thing”. There are risked assumed by both parties in an extension. Castro could leave money on the table and the Cubs could overpay. I think it’s a good idea to lock Castro up because I think this year is an outlier from what he is.

    • dan1111 - Aug 17, 2012 at 3:49 PM

      I understand the down votes. My comment was a bit harsh. However, the reason I reacted so strongly is that Matthew’s post amounts to an insinuation that Castro is somehow unmotivated or at least needs extra motivation compared to other players.

      The evidence that is supposed to worry us is this: Castro isn’t performing as well offensively this year; he isn’t a very good base stealer, and he makes a large number of errors. However, none of these things actually show that Castro lacks motivation.

      There are plenty of other good explanations, such as: Castro made it to the majors very young and is still learning the game; or, he is just unlucky this year (his BABIP is down significantly). Or, expectations were simply too high to begin with.

      People are quick to jump to psychological explanations for a player’s performance. This may make a good story, but the reality is we have very little insight into this. The Cubs management, having dealt with Castro extensively, probably should get a little more benefit of the doubt when it comes to judging whether he has the makeup to merit a multi-year, eight figure commitment.

      • madhatternalice - Aug 17, 2012 at 4:27 PM

        @dan1111

        Matthew’s logic may be flawed, and his arguments may not be the strongest here, but both your initial comment and your follow up seem to indicate that the only people who are qualified to judge Castro are the Cubs. Does that mean that no analyst is allowed to have an opinion?

        I’m all for refuting facts (Matthew would have been best served, for example, by pointing to the June incident where Sveum publicly called out Castro for “another mental lapse.”). But that doesn’t mean that he can’t have an opinion.

        People are quick to jump to psychological explanations for a player’s performance.

        Well, yes. That’s because so much of this game is mental, and in the absence of a physical problem, one would think it has to be a mental concern. We’ve seen, quite often, stars earn a big contract and go into a sort of “cruise control.” Soriano is a great example, but by no means the only one. And for someone who has shown a remarkable inconsistency this season, and numbers that have regressed since he was called up, it’s not unreasonable to posit that perhaps Castro needs the motivation that playing for a contract brings. So, while it may NOT be motivation that is hurting Castro, there’s enough evidence to suggest that it could be, which is all Matthew was saying.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Aug 17, 2012 at 4:04 PM

      I don’t know that Castro is lazy, but I think he lacks concentration, at the very least.

      I don’t think my comments qualified as any sort of revelation. Just google “starlin castro benched”

  4. garzastricepts - Aug 17, 2012 at 3:05 PM

    I think we need to know the dollars and years first. Matthew has guessed it will be like Cutch’s and run with it.

  5. Alex K - Aug 17, 2012 at 3:06 PM

    Isn’t it best to lock up a player you think is going to be a star when they are down? This is the time when they will get the biggest discount. Also, he’s only 22! It’s not unheard of for young players to have a down year.

    Do you think the Diamondbacks regret locking up Justin Upton? Or the Reds wish they hadn’t given Jay Bruce an extention?

    • Matthew Pouliot - Aug 17, 2012 at 4:11 PM

      No, they don’t. But here’s my what if…

      What if Player X with long-term security intact is a $15 million player but could also be a $25 million player deep down and you make him fight for it? Sure, the club would still be benefiting from the former situation, but not as much as it could be.

      It’s hard to blame a kid for becoming complacent once he’s given all of the money he’s ever going to need.

      • Alex K - Aug 17, 2012 at 4:22 PM

        That “what if” cuts both ways, Matthew. What if Player X gets a $15 million contract and makes them work harder to live up to the contract and it pushes him to be a $25 million player? We can play the “what if” game about anything. I

  6. anybodyinhere - Aug 17, 2012 at 3:43 PM

    He’ll probably forget to sign it anyway…

  7. riverace19 - Aug 17, 2012 at 5:26 PM

    Castro is easily the most overrated player in baseball. Can’t believe comments here that think he is a good investment. His OBP is barely over .300 because he has no plate discipline. He makes so many errors and mental mistakes on the base paths. If the Cubs dump money on this guy it will be another mistake in a long series of mistakes started by Hendry… Don’t do it Cubs!!!!

  8. riverace19 - Aug 17, 2012 at 5:26 PM

    Castro is easily the most overrated player in baseball. Can’t believe comments here that think he is a good investment. His OBP is barely over .300 because he has no plate discipline. He makes so many errors and mental mistakes on the base paths. If the Cubs dump money on this guy it will be another mistake in a long series of mistakes started by Hendry… Don’t do it Cubs!!!!

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