Chicago Cubs: Extending Starlin Castro Is Smart Move by Theo Epstein

Benjamin KleinContributor IIIAugust 17, 2012

LOS ANGELES - AUGUST 03:  Starlin Castro #13 of the Chicago Cubs bats against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on August 3, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Getty Images)
Josh Hedges/Getty Images

Theo Epstein and the Chicago Cubs are making sure that their rebuilding plan centerpiece will be playing at Wrigley Field for the foreseeable future as they try to extend Starlin Castro.

The Cubs have been working on a long-term deal with Castro which could amount to six or seven years, according David Kaplan of Comcast SportsNet Chicago. Kaplan writes that the extension—which could be finalized by the end of the 2012 season—is expected to buyout his remaining arbitration years as well as at least two years of free agency.

Chicago has worked tirelessly this season to find out what their plan is for the future and who is going to be a part of that plan. Making Starlin Castro a part of that plan is a very smart move by Epstein, GM Jed Hoyer and the Cubs.

The Cubs have some top shortstop prospects in their organization, but none that have the ceiling that Castro has already shown in the major leagues. He did, of course, finish fifth in the 2010 Rookie of the Year voting at just 20 years of age. Last season, he was an All-Star for the first time and also received votes for National League MVP. This season, another All-Star appearance.

Castro is a special player that doesn’t come around too often. He’s already made an impact in the Cubs’ lineup—even though Chicago is one of the worst teams in baseball this year—and has proved his worth. Yes, this season has been an off-year with a much lower batting average, OPS and many other statistical categories compared to his 2011 campaign.

Don’t worry Cubs fans. He’s just 22 years old and with virtually no other notable players surrounding him, it’s tough to succeed. Once some of the other players in Theo’s plan start coming up, there’s no doubt that Castro will be playing MVP-caliber baseball.

If you don’t want to call Castro’s 2012 season an off-year, that’s actually smart. Another way to look at it is that he’s focusing more on becoming a power hitter instead of a singles and doubles hitter. Just take a look at his stats for the last three seasons:

Year Games Hits Doubles Home Runs Batting Average
2010 125 139 31 3 .300
2011 158 207 36 10 .307
2012 116 129 16 12 .276

Clearly you can see that his hits and doubles are way down, but his home runs are up despite playing in 42 less games compared to 2011. Is that a good thing? I’d say so. The Cubs may be reluctant to spend money on big-name free agents who are going to hit 30-40 home runs a season, so if they can develop Castro into more of a power hitter that would probably save them some money.

The Cubs won’t win the World Series in 2012. They probably won’t win it in 2013. But as long as they have Starlin Castro in their lineup for the next six or seven years, they’re putting themselves in good positions to be World Series contenders.