After spending much of the 2011-2012 offseason and 2012 season trimming payroll, Chicago Cubs team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer may have begun spending on their own home-grown talent - beginning with Starlin Castro. MLB.com reporter Mark Clements reports that the Cubs are close to making official a seven-year, $60 million contract for the Cubs' shortstop. Neither side has confirmed the finalization of the deal as of August 19, but it appears very close.
I hope this deal becomes official very soon. Castro is only 22 years old, and he has already had some accomplishments in less than three years that many players never have in their entire careers. Castro has already made two National League All-Star teams (2011 and 2012) and led the National League in hits (207 in 2011).
Considering that some older players will make nearly three to four times the amount well into their late 30s, the Castro deal looks even better for the Cubs. The contract would put Castro under team control until after the 2019 season and take away his arbitration years before his first free agency time. That would keep valuable financial resources in the team's hands to develop and acquire more players as they continue their rebuilding, which may take a few more years.
The deal is very good for Castro also. He will make an average of $8.57 million per year and still be right around age 30 when it expires. If he performs as expected, he might make far more at that time.
Statistically, Castro compares very well with other shortstops in the league including long-time veterans. Castro leads all shortstops this year in runs batted with 60 at the start of play on August 19. This is on a team dead last in the National League in runs scored. He is hitting .280 (even after a prolonged slump) and is second in hits among shortstops with 134, only three behind Jose Reyes of the Miami Marlins and 17 ahead of the third place Rafael Furcal of the St. Louis Cardinals. He also has 20 steals.
The knocks on Castro are certainly understandable. He makes too many errors. The most frustrating thing is his recurring lack of focus on the field. Fans, teammates, and managers expect players to stay focused all the time, especially when making the money that this contract will pay him. That focus should come with maturity and age, but if Castro loses focus much more, then fans will lose patience with him and get on his case fast.
The Cubs have begun the rebuilding process by jettisoning some higher-priced players. Castro's pending contract shows me a commitment to improving the team from within. Some of the younger talent has begun to get Major League experience, and the Cubs' future may look a little brighter within a few more years.
Baseball Reference, Starlin Castro Player Page, baseball-reference.com.
Mark Clements, Castro, Cubs Won't Confirm Extension Report, cubs.mlb.com, August 18, 2012.
Major League Baseball, Sortable Player Statistics, mlb.mlb.com as of August 19, 2012.
Major League Baseball, Sortable Team Statistics, mlb.mlb.com as of August 19, 2012.
Raymond grew up in Florida and began watching the Cubs on WGN in 1982. He became a fan in 1984 when Ryne Sandberg hit the two famous game-tying home runs off Cardinals closer and former Cub Bruce Sutter. Raymond then solidified his team loyalty when the Cubs won the division later that season and has been a fan ever since. He played baseball through high school and soon after became a varsity coach. Raymond previously produced radio sports talk shows and hosted a weekly MLB radio call-in show. Follow Raymond on Twitter @RayBureau.
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