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.

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.