Cubs finalize $60 million extension with Starlin Castro

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Making official what was first reported two weeks ago, the Cubs have finalized a seven-year, $60 million contract extension with shortstop Starlin Castro that includes a team option for 2020.

Castro is making the minimum salary this season and would have been arbitration eligible for the first time next year. And as a “Super Two” player he would have had four total seasons of arbitration eligibility before reaching free agency.

All of which means the seven-year extension covers all four arbitration seasons and his first three free agent seasons while giving the Cubs a $16 million option or $1 million buyout on his fourth free agent year. Carrie Muskat of MLB.com has the year-by-year breakdown:

Signing bonus: $6 million
2013: $5 million
2014: $5 million
2015: $6 million
2016: $7 million
2017: $9 million
2018: $10 million
2019: $11 million
2020: $16 million option or $1 million buyout

Compared to his rookie and sophomore campaigns Castro has taken a step backward this season, hitting .276 with a .729 OPS, but he’s already reached a career-high with 12 homers in 127 games and at age 22 there’s still plenty of room for further development.

Castro already has 1,761 career plate appearances with a month to go in his age-22 season. In the history of baseball the only shortstops with more plate appearances through age 22 are Robin Yount, Edgar Renteria, Alex Rodriguez, Elvis Andrus, Arky Vaughan, and Travis Jackson. If he turns out to be as good as the worst player on that list the Cubs will have gotten a bargain in Castro’s extension, which covers the rest of his twenties.

Struggling Francisco Rodriguez’s job seems to be secure

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Tigers closer Francisco Rodriguez continued to struggle on Thursday, allowing a run in a 2-1 loss to the Mariners. It’s the sixth time in nine appearances that the right-handed veteran has allowed a run, bumping his ERA up to 6.23. He’s blown two saves and has two losses on the year.

Despite that, it doesn’t sound like Rodriguez’s job as the Tigers’ closer is in any jeopardy, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports. When asked how much of a leash Rodriguez has, manager Brad Ausmus said, “I’ll let you know.” Ausmus continued, “I think people have short memories. This guy did a pretty good job for us last year. Early on, people were worried because the velocity was down. Well, the velocity is back.”

“But at some point,” Ausmus said, “he does have to pitch the way he pitched last year, because he did an outstanding job for us last year and in a city that has been looking for a closer that was consistent for a long time, he was that.”

Rodriguez, 35, doesn’t have the stuff he once did. And the Tigers do appear to have someone who would be a better option in high-leverage situations. Lefty Justin Wilson has thrown 9 2/3 scoreless, hitless innings so far this season with 15 strikeouts and three walks. But for now, it sounds like Rodriguez will be free to work through his issues.

The Nationals are sad to be leaving Coors Field

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Don’t look now, but the Nationals have the best record in baseball at 16-6. They’re coming off a 10-game road trip in which they went 9-1, including sweeps of the Braves and Mets and a 3-1 series against the Rockies at Coors Field. During that series with the Rockies, the Nationals scored 46 runs, which is nearly as many as the Royals (54) have scored all season long. The Nats scored double-digits in all three wins.

The first game at Coors, an 8-4 loss, saw a three-hit game from Anthony Rendon and a homer from Ryan Zimmerman.

The second game featured Trea Turner hitting for the cycle and driving in seven runs. Daniel Murphy had three hits and five RBI.

The third game saw Turner finish a triple short of the cycle. Bryce Harper had four hits. Zimmerman had three hits including a homer. Murphy homered, too.

The fourth game featured homers from Adam Eaton, Harper, and Murphy. Seven members of the lineup had multiple hits and six had multiple RBI including pitcher Gio Gonzalez.

The series helped the Nationals bring their run differential to +34, the best in the National League. The Yankees are the only team with a better differential at +35.

Indeed, the Nationals are sad to be leaving Coors Field. They return home to open up a three-game set with the ailing Mets on Friday night.