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.

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.