Much has been made on SNY this weekend about the Mets and Cubs being potential trading partners. Chicago, which needs starting pitching, is home to three promising young shortstops: Starlin Castro, Arismendy Alcantara, and Javier Baez. New York, which needs a shortstop, sports a surplus of young starting pitchers. The partnership shows promise; all that needs to be set is the parties involved.
While the younger Alcantara and Baez may be the more tempting options, the Mets should ultimately pursue Starlin Castro in a potential trade with the Cubs.
Castro’s 2013 fall from grace is well-documented, but aside from his still-absent baserunning speed, Starlin has had a bounce-back 2014. He was voted an All-Star for the third time in five seasons, his OPS is back in the normal-looking .760 range, and after yesterday’s game-winning homer, he’s one away from tying his career high of 14 round-trippers.
The Mets know what they will get out of Castro, who at age 24 isn’t green but isn’t at his prime either. Here’s a guy who will hit around .280 with an OPS in the .750-.770 range, above average numbers for a shortstop. He’ll play every day, hit home runs in the mid-teens, and provide at best average defense; basically, a right-handed Daniel Murphy, or perhaps an Edgar Renteria (although he’d really have to work on his glove to reach Renteria’s level). Playing in Citi Field may also be enough for Starlin to unlock his speed, stretching opposite-field corner shots from doubles to triples.
Perhaps most importantly, though, Castro is under team control until at least 2019. And not just at team control, but at a comparative bargain level. Starlin is due to make $6 million next season and won’t hit eight figures until 2018, when he’s 28 and in his prime. Considering Bartolo Colon will make that much as a 41-year-old, and factoring in the possibility Castro blossoms into an Adrian Beltre-type player, it will be an absolute steal.
The Cubs may look to move Castro over the other two because, while still young, he is the oldest of their shortstop triumvirate. Alcantara’s bat should catch up with his glove, which has shown ability in center field, and Baez’s first few games point to a potential slugger. Chicago knows the potential of these two, and it would likely take extraordinary measures – i.e. Noah Syndergaard – to pry them from Theo Epstein’s payroll.
There are no sure things in baseball, but if the Mets are going to move Syndergaard, they will want something as close to a sure thing as they can get. By the end of the season, Alcantara and Baez will have spent just five months combined in the major leagues. Next year they could get better, or they could fizzle out. If they fizzle out in a New York uniform, it will make a potential Syndergaard deal look even worse.
Call it baseball’s equivalent of the game show Let’s Make a Deal. Starlin Castro is behind door number one, Arismendy Alcantara behind door number two, and Javier Baez behind door number three. The Mets have already seen Castro, a comfortable and acceptable prize. Alcantara and Baez could either be the trip of a lifetime, or they could be the zonk. Considering Sandy Alderson would have to bet the farm for what could be a zonk, he would be much better advised to sell just some of the crop for that comfortable prize.
Because it would probably take Noah Syndergaard to acquire Arismendy Alcantara or Javier Baez, and because New York can afford to move one of its lesser (but still above average) starting pitchers, the Mets should pursue Starlin Castro, a known but strong commodity, in a potential offseason deal with the Cubs. A shortstop of Castro’s caliber would go a long way to turning 2015 into the breakthrough year in Flushing.