ESPNdeportesLosAngeles.com has reported that Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro has agreed to a seven-year, $60-million contract extension on August 18, 2012. The contract would cover four years of arbitration eligibility plus three years of free agency. Castro would've had four years of arbitration eligibility because of his "Super Two" status this offseason. A $16-million option for 2020 is also included.
Cubs president Theo Epstein and Castro have both claimed that the deal hasn't been finalized.
Castro has a .276 batting average with 58 runs, 58 RBIs, 12 home runs, 19 stolen bases and an on-base-plus slugging percentage (OPS) of .756. His batting average and OBP have both declined since 2011. Despite 18 defensive errors, his fielding percentage has increased in each of his first three seasons. He also has a defensive-wins-above-replacement rating (DWAR) of 1.8.
The 22-year-old shortstop hasn't played his best baseball. The two-time All Star has excelled despite the lack of a strong supporting cast. That doesn't include three new managers and a new front office. Castro has endured a lot of change and much losing in his first three MLB seasons.
Some fans say that the Cubs should've waited before they made a long-term commitment to Castro. They'd argue that Castro must continue to prove himself and that he should improve his batting average and OPS. They're not convinced in a hitter who has 25 career homers.
There are risks involved. However, Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen is a great example for why I'd encourage this move.
The Pirates signed their 25-year-old outfielder to a six-year, $51.5-million contract extension in March 2012. The deal had reportedly included a $14.75-million club option in 2018. That contract effectively bought out McCutchen's arbitration years plus two years of free agency.
For the Scrooge-like Pirates, this was their second-largest contract in franchise history. They're regularly amongst teams who operate with one of MLB's lowest team payrolls. They reportedly had one of the five lowest team payrolls heading into 2012. The Pirates are taking bigger risks than big-market franchises when they commit to these types of contracts. A poor decision could stranglehold their ability to field a competitive team for years.
The money hasn't gone to McCutchen's head. He has responded with a career season that could net him his first National League MVP award. McCutchen has a .357 batting average with 85 runs, 72 RBIs, 24 home runs, 14 stolen bases and an OPS of 1.024. The Pirates are poised for their first postseason appearance in 20 years.
No-Brainer For The Cubs
Quality-hitting shortstops are a scarcity. The Cubs may have locked one down before he priced himself out of a reasonable salary once he takes his next step toward super-stardom. The Cubs could always re-position him if they wanted Javier Baez to be their long-term option at shortstop.
The additional three years of control are nice. Just imagine how much Castro could've cost as a free agent heading into 2016-17 offseason. Heading into the 2006-07 offseason, Alfonso Soriano signed an eight-year, $136-million contract. Heading into the 2011-12 offseason, Albert Pujols signed a ten-year, $250-million contract. Let's just say that inflation is out of control.
This deal was a no-brainer for Cubs management. The rewards far outweigh the risks. The Cubs are counting on him to live up to his potential. If he does, they'll have him for a bargain. I'll take that risk over these triple-digit contracts to 30-plus-year-old players who, while they've proven themselves for a longer period of time, are bound to regress.
Joshua Huffman grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula as a Green Bay Packers and Chicago Cubs enthusiast. He immediately gained an admiration for Cubs fans after watching numerous games on WGN during the mid-90s. His favorite Cubs moment was Kerry Wood's(notes) 1-hitter, 20K extravaganza that was only denied of a no-hitter by Kevin Orie's defensive blunder. As a Packers and Cubs fan, he suffered through Steve Bartman and "4th & 26" in a span of three months. He can be found on Twitter HERE.
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