When the Cubs acquired top prospect shortstop Addison Russell from the Athletics in the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel deal last month, many assumed that it likely signified the beginning of the end for Starlin Castro in Chicago. One potential destination is the Mets, who have a need for a shortstop and match up as a good trade partner for the Cubs since they have plenty of young pitching to offer. With the Cubs in Queens for a three-game series against the Mets this weekend, it’s only natural that Castro is being asked about the possibility, but he told Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com that he hopes to stay with the Cubs.
“Of course I want to stay here,” Castro said. “I want to be part of the team when we make the playoffs and we have a good team that can compete every year.”
Castro politely listened to the New York reporter asking if he’s willing to change positions if that means staying in Chicago. The shortstop’s on track to post a career-high in fielding percentage (.977), while his errors have declined steadily across the last four seasons, from 29 to 27 to 22 to 12 so far this year.
“I think I showed a lot of people that I can be good at my position,” Castro said. “Again, I don’t have the control (over that). But I think a lot of people see – and a lot of people know – that I can handle that position.”
After regressing last season, Castro has bounced back this year by batting .286/.335/.429 with 12 home runs and 63 RBI over 121 games. He doesn’t turn 25 until next March and still has five years remaining on the seven-year, $60 million extension he signed with the Cubs in August of 2012. His contract also includes a club option for 2020.
Mets outfielder Michael Cuddyer has already made a pair of mistakes in left field and he’s only four innings into the first game of the best-of-five NLDS against the Dodgers.
Leading off the second inning, Justin Turner sent a well-struck liner to Cuddyer which was quite catchable, but the ball clanked off of the veteran’s glove. Turner was credited with a double. Mets starter Jacob deGrom was able to work around the misplay, striking out Andre Ethier, A.J. Ellis, and Clayton Kershaw to close out the frame.
With two outs in the third inning, Corey Seager sent a fly ball down the left field line. Cuddyer took an inefficient route and the ball bounced about a foot inside the foul line, then into the stands, giving Seager a ground-rule double. To add insult to injury, Cuddyer ended up tumbling over the fence. deGrom, again, worked around Cuddyer’s mistake, striking out Adrian Gonzalez to end the inning.
Because he bats right-handed, Cuddyer got the start in left field over the left-handed-hitting rookie Michael Conforto against Kershaw, a southpaw. Conforto mustered only a .481 OPS against lefties this season compared to Cuddyer’s .698. Despite the batting disparity, one wonders how short a leash manager Terry Collins has on Cuddyer given his defense.
Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy broke a scoreless tie in the fourth inning, belting a solo home run to right field at Dodger Stadium off of starter Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw threw a 2-0, 94 MPH fastball and Murphy didn’t miss it.
Both teams’ starters are pitching quite well overall. Kershaw has allowed the one run on three hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Jacob deGrom started off the game with six consecutive strikeouts and has struck out seven total while blanking the Dodgers on three hits and a walk in three innings.
Kershaw doesn’t have the most impressive post-season track record, owning a career 5.12 ERA across eight starts and three relief appearances spanning 51 innings. Aside from the homer, the lefty appears to be putting that notion aside.
Eric Fisher of the Sports Business Journal reports that the value of a qualifying offer for free agents this off-season has been set at $15.8 million. That represents an increase of a half-million dollars over last year’s value.
This is of particular interest with regards to the big-name free agents, including Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, Yovani Gallardo, Jordan Zimmermann, and Jeff Samardzija.
Teams that make a qualifying offer to a player that ends up being rejected receive a compensation draft pick in the upcoming draft. The team that signs the player who rejected a qualifying offer gives up their earliest non-protected draft pick.
Free agents who had been traded mid-season aren’t eligible to receive a qualifying offer. This includes Yoenis Cespedes, David Price, Johnny Cueto, and Ben Zobrist, among others.
A player has yet to accept a qualifying offer since the QO system was implemented.