Cubs Starlin Castro For Mets Zack Wheeler Or Jacob DeGrom: Who Says No?
It wouldn’t be a Cubs off-season without Starlin Castro trade rumors to the Mets. Last winter, the question was if Chicago would sell low to clear space for a plethora of near ready shortstop prospects. For New York, Zack Wheeler was the clear cut second fiddle to Matt Harvey and destined to become a star in his own right. 12 months later and every scenario discussed prior to the 2014 season has proven wildly misguided at best and sheer idiocy at worst.
After a horrid 2013 campaign, Castro rebounded, posting a triple slash line of .292/.339/.438 and positive value on defense. 2.9 wins and a contract Chicago was “saddled” looks like a bargain again. And with him under contract through 2019 (2020 if option is exercised), Starlin Castro can solve a team’s need for shortstop through the rest of the decade.
Meanwhile, top prospect Javier Baez (ROTOscouting Report) reached the show and struck out 40-plus percent of the time. A .169 batting average and below average defense combined for -.8 WAR. At the Major League level, the former 1st round picks warts were magnified and he doesn’t appear ready for prime time in 2015.
Arismendy Alcantara debuted and also struggled with the bat. He played second base and centerfield, moving off of shortstop for good. In 300 plate appearances, he accumulated 0.2 WAR and flashed both power and speed (10 home runs, eight stolen bases). He’ll be a productive MLB player, but not a shortstop, eliminating a piece of the perceived logjam.
Finally, Addison Russell (ROTOscouting Report) arrived in the Jeff Samardzija trade and is expected to be Starlin Castro’s heir apparent if/when a trade happens. After missing a considerable amount of playing time in 2014, he slashed .295/.350/.508 before struggling mightily in the Arizona Fall League. Another year of seasoning at the MILB level would be beneficial as he adds the finishing touches.
Knowing this, a Starlin Castro trade is difficult to envision for a Chicago Cubs team in transition, but in play for a number of free agents.
Can Starlin Castro Net A Big Mets Arm?
In New York, Matt Harvey (Solo Home Run Situations) lost all of 2014 to Tommy John and hopes to return healthy in 2015.
Zack Wheeler struck out more than a batter per inning, achieved a 50-plus ground ball rate while walking too many batters. 1.8 WAR was a strong season for the second year player and 185.1 innings pitched means he’ll surpass 200 with a healthy 2015. Barring injury or an unexpected drop in production, Wheeler will enter arbitration years in 2017 and be eligible for free agency in 2020. Between now and then, one can guess the former 1st round pick will earn between 20 and 30 million by the time he hits the open market.
Meanwhile, Starlin Castro is owed 43 million through 2019 with a 16 million dollar option. On paper, the Cubs shortstop signed a team friendly deal and is an underpaid asset. However, let’s not forget guaranteed money is much different than going year-by-year. If Wheeler sustains a serious injury, the Mets have the ability to cut bait. If Castro collapses again, his team won’t be as lucky.
Besides Wheeler, the Mets also have National League Rookie Of The Year Jacob DeGrom. Entering 2015, the former 9th round pick hopes to repeat on a magnificent rookie season. With two key arms, New York had little wiggle room to swing a deal. With three, they can move one, add a shortstop and still have a quality starting five with Jon Niese, Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee slotting in behind Harvey and Wheeler/DeGrom.
DeGrom has an extra year of cheap control than Wheeler, but is also older and lacks elite pedigree. But given his pitch usage at the MLB level, ROTOscouting’s Ben Flajole believes he’s much more than a sell high opportunity. With a 3.0 WAR 2014, he matched Starlin Castro’s value and has more cheap control. Just remember the right-hander is older than Chicago’s shortstop is and Castrol has 3,000 plus plate appearances under his belt.
Plus, the organization has assets on the farm who hope to make a splash in 2015. Pitching is a strength and shortstop is not. In some respects, the decision is this simple.
As ROTOscouting readers, who flinches? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. For as much as the time seems right from New York’s perspective, the Cubs really need to be compelled to trading Starlin Castro knowing it would create an unstable situation at shortstop. On paper, the pieces fit in terms of talent, but player development is another story. For now, it seems too soon for Chicago to pull the trigger unless the Mets are willing to overpay. And with their attempts to build a winner on a strict budget, it’s still a tough sell even after the Michael Cuddyer signing.
12 Nov 2014 / Mike Newman / 4
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