Baseball Insider: Should cost of prospects keep Mets from dealing for Starlin?

Um what?Gene J. Puskar/AP Um what?

The primary takeaway from last weekend’s enormous trade between the Oakland Athletics and Chicago Cubs was Billy Beane’s glorious rejection of the prospect hype that has overrun baseball in recent years, and decision to live in the moment.

It was so refreshing to see a general manager choose people who have already demonstrated an ability to play in the big leagues over the abstract promise of those who might do so, and the move jolted an entire industry. But a different thread of discussion has dominated New York in the days since Beane sent top Double-A shortstop Addison Russell, along with outfielder Billy McKinney and pitcher Dan Straily, to Chicago for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel: Will the Mets pursue Starlin Castro?

When colleague
John Harper wrote about this a few days ago, one team source told him that, while nothing was imminent, the Mets and Cubs made “a perfect match” as trading partners. This is true; the Mets have pitching depth, but need a shortstop, while the Cubs are rich in infielders, but still lack the pitching to build a contender.

But beyond that, the first reaction of many regarding the Mets and Castro was that he was not their type of player, in that his offensive approach was not selective enough. There was the matter of his reputation as sometimes lackadaisical, a guy who would bring attitude concerns that the Mets do not need.

After further digging, we can tell you that neither assumption holds up entirely, and that Castro is worth watching, as the Mets seek their shortstop of the future. The industry-wide assumption is that the Cubs are not ready to make another trade, but might change their position this winter.

First, the matter of hitting approach. Castro’s on-base percentage is .332, up just slightly from his .323 career number; last season, it was .284. His walk rate of 5.7 percent this year would be his best since 2010, but it is hardly spectacular. Compare that to Ruben Tejada, who has a .350 OBP this year, and a 7.9 percent walk rate in his career.

Starlin Castro likes to swing the bat. What's wrong with that?Alex Brandon/AP Starlin Castro likes to swing the bat. What’s wrong with that?

My initial instinct was to assume that those numbers would preclude the Mets from wanting Castro, but that’s why you ask questions. After doing so, the sense I got was that Castro’s talent was dynamic enough to merit serious consideration, no matter how aggressively he swings. Walk rate be damned, the man is significantly better at baseball than Tejada or Wilmer Flores (my opinion, not theirs, but it’s obvious), and I do not believe that Castro’s approach would be a deal-breaker.

Now let’s talk about attitude, makeup, whatever you want to call it. Plenty of sharp baseball people have objected to Castro’s style, which could be called casual, but it is important to double-check our assumptions, and be wary of groupthink. Latin American players are often labeled unfairly in this way (see Jose Reyes, who played with as much energy as anyone), so we should always question these labels, because of differences in language and culture.

“Coaches say he’s a good kid,” one evaluator who knows the Cubs organization well says of Castro. “Kids get labeled all the time.”

Castro’s salary is reasonable, at $6 million in 2015, $7 million in 2016, $9 million in 2017, $10 million in 2018, $11 million in 2019, and a $16 million team option for 2020. The Mets biggest concern about acquiring him seems to be the price in prospects, rather than dollars. There is a perception that the Cubs would demand a significant haul, because of Castro’s talent and team-friendly contract.

But the Mets are itching to live in the now, to contend rather than rebuild. They are probably more inclined to hold onto their pitchers, and pursue a free agent like Jed Lowrie. But would they part with, say, Zack Wheeler plus a Jacob deGrom or Rafael Montero for Castro, if the opportunity arose? At this early date, we can at least tell you to keep an eye on the situation.


Harper drove all the way to Pennsylvania to avoid the Mets game, and found a suddenly intriguing Yankees minor leaguer, Rob Refsnyder.

You’re always wary about sudden emergences of guys who weren’t even in big league camp a few months ago, but hey, Refsnyder has slugged his way into our consciousness. Harper
digs into his personal side, including the racial taunts that he has endured while playing.

The big league Yankees won in Cleveland, and Feinsand was there.


Ruben Tejada had the big knock.

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