Whither Starlin Castro: Have Recent Events Changed the Course of the Shortstop’s Future?
I’m assuming that by now you’ve read more than you already care to about the events surrounding eldest Cubs shortstop (who I’ll refrain from calling a shooting Starlin), but that’s not going to stop me from writing about them again anyway. Well, sort of. I’m hoping to take a slightly different tack here.
The whole point of operating this blog is to have a public outlet, but if I’m just throwing stuff out into the ether, I might as well be some street-corner preacher proselytizing to the passing masses. But rather than shouting into the bustling void of the internet, I love to interact with those of you who come here to read and comment.
With that in mind, I wanted to lay out a few scenarios and ask for your feedback or your own thoughts; call it a choose-your-own-adventure story of sorts. Don’t worry, I’m not going to cop out and leave you guessing as to my own thoughts either.
In my first post regarding the Starlin Castro news, I look at the emerging facts–or lack thereof–in the reported shooting in the Domincan Republic to which the Cub was (loosely) tied. Later that evening, I looked at his agent’s statements and how the conversation about Castro mirrored those about the rest of his career.
One question that popped up both in the comments and on Twitter was whether this news makes the Cubs more likely to move their talented-but-troubled star. Another was whether Castro and his poor decision-making is the issue or whether it’s his spending too much time at home. Could it be both?
To that end, I’d like to look at the possibilities, make my own conclusions and state my preferences, and then give you the opportunity to do the same. So where do Starlin Castro and the Cubs go from here? I’ve got a few options below.
The Cubs want/need to trade him ASAP
As I wrote earlier, the Cubs seem to be targeting high-character guys as they push this rebuild into high gear. That’s not to say that they haven’t placed a premium on makeup in the past or that they value personality over talent, just that Jason Motte, Jon Lester et al. being stand-up guys isn’t necessarily a happy coincidence.
Starlin Castro isn’t necessarily a bad guy, but he’s someone who sure seems to find himself connected to things that bad guys are involved in. If the Cubs don’t think he’ll be able to extricate himself from the people and places that exacerbate these reports, they might find it best to move one.
As with all problem children, there’s always someone willing to take them on as a reclamation project. Consider for a moment that even Milton Bradley was a tradeable asset, and he was an abominable human being. Castro is younger, better, and has never blown out his ACL being dragged away from an argument with an ump.
He needs to be traded, but only after they polish this turd
Or perhaps you prefer remove this wart. I am enamored of the former phrase because I think it’s funny and because Mythbusters proved that it’s actually possible to turn dung into some pretty shiny spheres. Either way, the Cubs might need to wait a while if they wish to squeeze maximum value for Castro.
While many wanted to put the flagging shortstop on the first thing smoking out of Chicago when his numbers dipped in 2013, it made no sense to sell low. As he proved this past season, holding onto Castro was the right thing to do.
Likewise, the uncertainty and stigma surrounding Starlin at this point necessitate a bit of positive PR in order to get that value back up to its highest. As I wrote earlier, I hope that the only baggage he brings to Mesa contains a change of clothes, and I’m sure other teams would want to see more of the same.
If Castro comes to camp and starts raking, then picks up where he left off in 2014, perhaps the Cubs will consider moving him. This is assuming that Addison Russell is also performing up to expectations in Iowa and is deemed ready to take over in Chicago.
Just stay the course and let the chips fall where they may
The season is still months away and we’ve yet to sort through the mire of Dominican justice, so there’s really no need to go all Tom Smykowski just yet. With a news cycle that moves at the speed of tweet, it’s easy to get overzealous in our indictment of athletes and public figures.
Only with time and information can we make the best assessments, and the Cubs know this as well as anyone. Making knee-jerk moves based on emotion don’t typically work out well, and a team that has spent so much time carefully crafting a farm system and carrying out a long-view plan isn’t likely to jump to conclusions.
Theo Epstein and Co doesn’t have a perfect track record, and the reactionary signing of Edwin Jackson stands out as likely the organization’s biggest blemish. So to jettison a potential building block as the result of an off-the-field incident in which he may not have even been involved seems pretty foolish.
There are those who believe the young man is simply a dunderhead, a flighty space cadet who will simply never get it and is destined to be little more than a disappointment. But whose expectations is he failing to live up to? Are they yours? Are they based on a six-RBI debut that had him prematurely christened as the team’s next star?
Sure, he makes some mistakes and his flaws have been duly noted. But he’s also one of the best–if not the best–shortstops in the game from an offensive standpoint. And those who decry his lack of hustle on deep singles might want to examine the actual harm, or lack thereof, to the team.
Just a few days ago, one of our readers pointed out that “In 2014 Starlin had the highest batting average of any SS who qualified with enough PA. [He] had the second-highest OBP of any SS! In my opinion more importantly his wRC+ and wOBA were 3rd in MLB.”
That’s not the type of guy you want to get rid of. Well, not unless you think he’s incapable of maturing to the point that he isn’t constantly being named in connection to various and sundry unsavory acts. Hints, allegations, and opinions have been flying hither and thither, but whither Starlin Castro.
If I’m the Cubs, I’m holding onto the kid. I’m also holding him accountable and doing what I can to provide or encourage a little more stability in his life. The situations are decidedly different, but Josh Hamilton seemed to be at his best with Johnny Narron at his side as an accountability partner. Alfonso Soriano had been Castro’s surrogate big brother; perhaps a steadying role model could help.
As Paul Kinzer, Castro’s agent, had suggested, the Cubs might want to look at having their shortstop spend most or all of the offseason in Arizona near the team’s complex. That might be a bit over the top, but avoiding his hometown in Montecristi for more than short visits might not be the worst idea.
I can’t say what the Cubs will do, but I can say that I hope they keep Castro around for the long term. I do not believe he’s incapable of good choices and I do believe that he’s the type of player whose flaws will be mitigated by the increased talent making its way to Wrigley Field.
But I promised you your chance to share your thoughts, and I’ve carried on long enough. There are some poll questions below and, as always, the comment boxes await your opinions. Should Castro stay or go? Can he improve? Let me know what you think.