According to Comcast Sportsnet Chicago reporter David Kaplan, the Cubs brass plans on keeping its franchise player in town for the foreseeable future:
With that approach in mind, two industry sources who have represented several MLB players over the past decade confirmed to me tonight that the Cubs are working on a long term deal for star shortstop Starlin Castro.
Kaplan notes that "the deal, which could be six or more years in length, is expected to be finalized before the end of the 2012 season and would not only buy out the remaining arbitration years that Castro has, but at least two years of free agency which he will reach after the 2016 season."
This is exactly what you would expect from an astute baseball mind like Epstein. Castro is a "can't-miss" talent, and he's just beginning to realize his vast potential. A long-term deal would look even better once he figures out the nuances of the game.
One of Kaplan's sources notes that Castro will be very expensive if he's allowed to hit free agency.
Locking Castro up now would assure the Cubs front office that they "will know what their costs are for a significant amount of time going forward and for Castro, he will have lifetime security rather than going year-to-year during arbitration until he completes six full years in the game," according to Kaplan's source.
In three big-league seasons, Castro is batting .296 with a .755 career OPS. He's got a 7.1 WAR over that stretch, and it will be much higher if he polishes his play in the field.
Castro is cut from a rare mold. He's a legitimate power threat at a position not necessarily known for long-ball hitters, and he's fast enough to swipe 30 bases per season. He has 12 home runs this season, and he's stolen 19 bases despite getting caught 10 times.
Players like Castro don't grow on trees. If developed properly, he is destined to be one of baseball's biggest stars. Locking him up for the coming years would ensure a consistent presence in the Cubs lineup, and they could build around him with players like Anthony Rizzo, Brett Jackson and possibly Josh Vitters.
Chicago's squad has been subpar this season, and it will take more moves like this to improve in the future.
Making sure Castro plays his best years in a Cub uniform would be ideal for Epstein, Hoyer and the entire Chicago franchise.