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.

Dominic Smith likely to start the season at Triple-A

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Following the Mets’ recent signing of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports that fellow first baseman Dominic Smith is likely to start the season with Triple-A Las Vegas. That is contingent, of course, on the veteran Gonzalez’s ability to remain healthy, which isn’t a guarantee.

Smith, 22, struggled last season, batting .198/.262/.395 in 183 plate appearances. The Mets have also expressed concern about Smith’s conditioning. Puma reported in November that as a result of better dietary choices and a daily exercise regimen, Smith had already lost 11-12 pounds.

Gonzalez, 35, didn’t exactly have a stellar 2017 campaign. Along with battling back issues, Gonzalez hit .242/.287/.355 in 252 PA. That the Mets’ Plan A is to go with Gonzalez over Smith says something about their confidence in Smith.