Calling up Starlin Castro a good gamble for Cubs

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starlin castro running.jpgAnother team would have waited three weeks. That’s about when a club can call up a top prospect without any service time and not have to worry about him becoming super-two eligible after his second full year in the majors.
The Cubs, though, had reasons not to procrastinate. Sure, those three weeks may seem like a small time to have waited if Castro ends up costing them an extra $10 million-$15 million over four years of arbitration eligibility. But there’s a slight chance it’ll mean the difference between reaching the postseason in 2010 and staying home in October.
Besides, Castro, for all of his positives, isn’t Tim Lincecum or Matt Wieters or Jason Heyward. He’s certainly not going to have any 30-homer seasons in his mid-20s. If he hits more than 15 homers in 2012, it’d be an upset. He should hit for average and steal some bases, but he’s not the kind of player the arbitration process tends to reward most handsomely. Odds are that it will be several years before he makes a real dent in the Cubs’ lofty budget.
So the money isn’t that big of a deal. And Castro may well be able to help out right away. When he’s just 20 — and he just hit that number on March 24 — he was off to a .376/.421/.569 start at Double-A Tennessee. He makes a ton of contact and is adept at fighting off breaking balls, so he doesn’t strike out very often. He also doesn’t walk much, but he seems to be improving there. Dating back to last year, he’s walked 19 times in 220 at-bats in Double-A, matching his total in 358 at-bats from high-A ball.
Castro is a poor basestealer for someone with above average speed, but that will change with coaching. On defense, he’s occasionally spectacular and he should be a modest improvement on Ryan Theriot. As he continues to fill out, he may face a move to second base someday. His range isn’t an issue yet, though.
The Cubs can plug Castro into the eighth spot in the lineup and see what happens. If he struggles, then they’ll still have Mike Fontenot as a fallback. Castro is so young that an early major league failure would hardly dim his prospects. The Cubs have hurt themselves by rushing prospects in the past, and I still think they’re making a mistake with Tyler Colvin, even though he’s provided ample production in his limited action.
Castro, though, doesn’t have the kind of game that’s going to fall apart just because he’s facing pitchers capable of painting the black and throwing breaking balls in any count. He’s not going to challenge Jason Heyward for Rookie of the Year honors, but he could hit .280/.340/.400 and be an asset as an everyday player the rest of the way.

Cardinals, Dexter Fowler agree to a five-year, $82 million deal

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Dexter Fowler #24 of the Chicago Cubs reacts during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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The Cardinals have officially signed outfielder Dexter Fowler to a five-year, $82.5 million contract. Fowler will also get a full no-trade clause.

The Cardinals gave Fowler a bigger deal than many speculated he’d get, as some reports predicted he’d get something in the $52-72 million range. His skills, however — he’s a fantastic leadoff hitter who plays a premium defensive position — definitely earned him some major dough. Fowler hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 homers, 48 RBI and 13 steals over 125 games in 2016 for the World Series champion Cubs.

For the Cardinals, this will allow Matt Carpenter to move down to the middle of the batting order and will shift Randal Grichuk to left field. It also takes a prime piece from the Cardinals’ biggest rival. For their part, earlier this offseason the Cubs signed former Cardinal center fielder Jon Jay. So that’s fun.

Are the Cardinals about to go on a free agent binge?

John Mozeliak AP
Associated Press
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The Cardinals have always emphasized building from within. In the 2016-17 offseason, however, they may end up being one of the bigger free agent buyers. At least according to some informed speculation.

St. Louis is already in agreement with Dexter Fowler. But Derrick Goold and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch write today that the Cardinals “could become more aggressive than previously believed,” with Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion as “possible pursuits.” Worth noting that separate reports alleged some interest on the part of the Cards front office in free agent third baseman Justin Turner.

The Cardinals are already losing their first round pick due to the Fowler signing, so any other top free agent won’t cost them more than the money he’s owed. And as far as money goes, the Cardinals have a great deal of it, despite being a small market team. They have a billion dollar TV deal coming online and Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia are off the payroll now. Spending big on a free agent or three would not cripple them or anything.

Encarnacion or Trumbo would be first baseman, which wold fly in the face of the Cards’ move of Matt Carpenter to first base (and, at least as far as Encarnacion goes, would fly in the face of good defense). Getting either of them would push Carpenter back to second, displacing Kolten Wong, or over to third, displacing Jhonny Peralta. If you’re going to do that, I’d say that Turner would make more sense, but what do I know?

Either way, the Cardinals may be entering a pretty interesting phase of their offseason now. And an unfamiliar one as, quite possibly, the top free agent buyer on the market.