I’ve been saying for weeks on Twitter that the Chicago Cubs, who will be one of only a handful of MLB teams selling over the next couple of months, should trade Starlin Castro, their young shortstop who has been labeled the franchise player for the time being.
But when I look at Castro, I see a great piece for a team rather than the guy that an organization should build around.
I’ve boiled it down to 3 main reasons why the Chicago Cubs should trade Castro:
3. Castro a Misfit in the Field & in the Lineup
Starlin Castro is currently the shortstop for the Cubs. This position is the de facto captain of the infield, and it needs to be manned by someone that will be very reliable in the field.
Castro and his .958 fielding percentage is anything but reliable.
If a team had that fielding percentage overall, it would be a nightmare. So for one of the captains of the defense, who should be reflective of the unit as a whole, to put up that number suggests his is a liability to his team.
Because of that, I see Castro moving to third base sooner rather than later, staying on his natural left side of the infield. And if you’re trying to build around a third baseman, that player needs to be a major offensive producer, most likely a power producer. Take a look at the Pirates building around Pedro Alvarez, the Nationals with Ryan Zimmerman, the Rays around Evan Longoria, and the Giants with Pablo Sandoval.
That doesn’t mean that Castro can’t be an extremely valuable player for a team at third base, it just means that it’s not wise to build around a corner infielder who isn’t going to hit more than 10-12 home runs (give or take) in a season.
There are franchise players and there are guys that are great pieces. Organizations that are building or rebuilding can do so around those pieces, but only if they have a bonafide franchise player or two by their side. Sure, Anthony Rizzo looks good, but talk to me when he’s done it in the big leagues.
And this leads us in to the next reason why Castro should be dealt.
2. Wasting the Years Away
The Cubs have had Castro looking impressive in their lineup for almost 2 1/2 years now, yet it’s essentially a forgone conclusion that they won’t be legitimate contenders until 2015. With 2 1/2 seasons left until then, 2015 will be Castro’s 6th big league season. While his age is not a concern, since he’ll only be 25 at the start of that season, I think the five years wasted should be a big concern.
Sure, Castro will still be good when the Cubs are in contention mode, but they could trade him now for a few impact prospects that would have more of their best years when it counts more. In other words, the Cubs could “cash in” for the next few of Castro’s expected impressive campaigns instead of having them go for not. If they get a couple guys who puts all of his good years toward a contender, it would make it worth the risk of trading a proven talent like Castro, especially considering the fact that he’s not a 3 or 4 hitter, as previously described.
Sabermetrics is an approach to analyzing baseball players that revolves more around intensive and predictive statistical analysis than simply using scouts’ opinions, box score stats, and gut feelings.
Theo Epstein analyzed players this way in Boston, following the lead of the A’s Billy Beane and placing special emphasis on on-base percentage, and it brought Epstein’s Red Sox two World Series titles.
The fact of the matter is that Castro doesn’t fit well into this sabermetrics type thinking.
While you can count on Castro to rake in a lot of hits and compile an average around .300-.310, his on-base percentage will likely only ever be about .20-.30 points higher than that. He simply doesn’t take pitches, which can either lead to walks or increasing his chances of getting good pitches to hit.
Is it okay that a very good hitter doesn’t walk much? It can be for certain players talented enough to overcome it. But when Theo looks through the sabermetrics lens evaluating his team, he’ll likely view Castro and his .340 OBP as very replaceable.
A few infielders who could replace that OBP at a much cheaper price are Jed Lowrie, Marco Scutaro, and Omar Infante, just for reference.
So whether you as a Cubs fan would like it or not, Theo may see a trade of Starlin Castro as far too sensible to pass up.