Cubs nearing long-term extension with Starlin Castro

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7:00 p.m. EDT update: FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal believes a Starlin Castro extension could be announced early next week or sooner. It’d be a six- or seven-year contract with a club option that would buy out an extra year of free agency. As is, Castro will be eligible for FA after 2016.

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David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com has the exclusive:

Two industry sources who have represented several MLB players over the past decade confirmed to me tonight that the Cubs are working on a long term deal for star shortstop Starlin Castro.

The deal, which could be six or more years in length, is expected to be finalized before the end of the 2012 season and would not only buy out the remaining arbitration years that Castro has, but at least two years of free agency which he will reach after the 2016 season.

Castro has battled concentration issues, but the 22-year-old Dominican shortstop is the youngest player in franchise history to top 200 hits in a season (he finished with 207 in 2011) and continues to flash improving power potential. It’s hard to see this as anything but a positive for the rebuilding Northsiders.

Castro is batting .276/.307/.422 with 12 home runs and 58 RBI through 116 games played this season. As it stands currently, he will be eligible for arbitration this winter for the first time in his career.

Report: Phillies interested in Manny Machado; Orioles have done homework on Phillies’ minor league system

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Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will become a free agent after the 2018 season and there hasn’t been much in the way of progress on a contract extension between the two sides. It seems as if Machado will test the open market next offseason.

The Phillies, currently with relatively minuscule obligations for the 2018 season and beyond, are expected to be big players for Machado, as well as other potential free agents like Bryce Harper. In fact, the Phillies may not even want to wait until next offseason, as Roch Kubatko of MASN reports that the club has expressed interest in Machado to the Orioles. In return, the O’s have been doing their homework on the Phillies’ minor league system.

Kubatko notes that the Orioles like, in particular, Phillies prospects Sixto Sanchez and Scott Kingery. The Phillies may be hesitant to part with either considering they can get Machado for a lot of cash but no prospects next winter. MLB Pipeline rates Sanchez as the Phillies’ best pitching prospect and the second-best prospect overall in the system. Kingery is third overall and the top infielder. While the Phillies’ system is among the best in baseball, its notable weakness is pitching, so parting with Sanchez — who throws in the upper 90’s and can hit triple digits — would be a big ask. Kingery is seen as the club’s next second baseman of the future, so much so that the Phillies are shopping Cesar Hernandez at the Winter Meetings.

As usual with rumors during the Winter Meetings, there may be some smoke but no actual fire here. The Orioles are likely to get continued interest in Machado from many teams between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. They are simply doing their due diligence by seeing what the Phillies and others have to offer for Machado.