This isn’t the time for Cubs to commit to Starlin Castro

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Word came down from CSNChicago.com’s David Kaplan last night that the Cubs were working on a long-term deal with Starlin Castro said to be for six years or more.

A six-year extension running from 2013-18 would buy out all of Castro’s arbitration seasons and his first two-years of free agency. One would imagine it’d come in somewhere in the $45 million-$50 million range (Andrew McCutchen had the same amount of service time when he got $51.5 million for six years this spring), and even at that lofty price tag, there’s a good chance it’d save the Cubs some money in the long run.

I still don’t think it’s the right move, not when Castro still hasn’t come close to making the most of his talent.

The fact that Castro has yet to become a star at age 22 isn’t damning in itself. But the lack of development is. Castro’s walk rate is down and his strikeout rate is up this year. He’s hitting just .276 after coming in at .300 and .307 in his first two seasons. His homers are up, but his doubles are way down. He’s still a lousy basestealer for all of his speed. His defense has improved, and he’s cut back on the mental errors in the field, but he still makes more than most.

The last thing the Cubs need is a complacent Castro. They need him motivated to become the very best player he can be, and handing him $45 million now seems a pretty lousy way to accomplish that.

Maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps Castro can get his money and still turn into a star anyway. If so, the Cubs might stand to save $10 million per year in 2017 and ’18 by locking him into such a deal now.

The Cubs, though, shouldn’t be worrying too much about their 2017-18 payrolls just yet. I think it’d make more sense to see what happens over the next year. If Castro improves, then it may well cost the team an extra $10 million-$20 million to get an extension done with him then. But at least they’ll have a better idea what they’re paying for.

Derek Jeter and Giancarlo Stanton have different stories about his trade

Associated Press
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Giancarlo Stanton was introduced by the New York Yankees moments ago, donning the pinstripes for the first time and meeting a mass of media. The takeaway from the presser — apart from how happy he seems to be about joining the Yankees — is how poorly the Miami Marlins handled his departure.

Earlier in the day Derek Jeter — who, despite being in charge of the Marlins baseball operations department is not here for the Winter Meetings — had a telephone press conference in which he seemed to bristle at the bad press he’s received since the Stanton trade was announced and tried to tell his side of the story of the deal. Here’s his side of the story:

During his press conference just now Stanton was asked if Jeter persuaded him to stay. He paused for several seconds when he was asked that. Then he answered:

We had a meeting, yes. We spoke about the direction of the team. I wanted us to go forward and have — and advance with the pitching staff. I thought our lineup was legit and we needed help with our pitchers, and we needed to add rather than subtract. The way they wanted to go was to subtract, so I let that be known that I didn’t want to be part of another rebuild, another losing season, and that’s almost a guaranteed losing season taking away what I thought was a great lineup. So, yes, I didn’t want to be a part of the rebuild.

It was quite clear from both his words and his demeanor that Stanton gave the Marlins a reasonable set of circumstances that would make him want to stay. It was likewise clear that the Marlins did nothing to persuade him to stay.

They also bungled the trade.

Stanton has taken a lot of heat for rejecting deals to the Giants and the Cardinals. Stanton said, though, that he and his agent presented the Marlins with a list of teams to whom he’d accept a trade beforehand and the Giants and Cardinals were not on the list. Stanton:

Now, I gave my list of teams prior to, and they went to San Francisco and Cardinals and struck deals with them. So I was open to listen to them, but those were not my teams.

The Marlins nonetheless struck those deals and presented them to Stanton. Stanton said that he had a lot of respect for those organizations so he took meetings with them but that they were never on his list and they just weren’t deals that were going to work out.

News of those deals, it’s worth remembering, came out primarily from a reporter based in south Florida, suggesting that they were leaked by the Marlins. So not only was the club pursuing deals they should have known Stanton was going to reject, they made his act of rejecting them an awkward, public act which made Stanton into the bad guy in some quarters. Once those deals feel apart, of course, the Yankees quickly swooped in and got him for a good second baseman who will soon be traded and some magic beans.

Stanton came off really well in his presser. He answered every questions thrown at him. He praised the Cardinals and the Giants and explained his decision to join the Yankees without delving into the sorts of cliches often used when talking about the Yankees, focusing less on their history and brand and more on their good young players and their current state of competitiveness. He also said, when asked whether he’ll play right field given that Aaron Judge is there, that he doesn’t care where he played as long as he can help the team win. It was a master class in how to introduce yourself to the New York media.

Contrast that with what’s coming out of Miami. And ask yourself if we should maybe rethink what we talk about when we talk about Yankees, current and former, and the idea of “class.”

More from the Stanton press conference: