It’s shaping up to be a serious seller’s market at the Major League Baseball trade deadline.
With the extra wild-card spot, how many of the 30 teams can legitimately stake the claim of contention?
Headed into the weekend, all but eight of the league’s 30 were within 5 games of a division or wild-card lead.
Advantage, Cubs. Possibly for the only time all year. Better seize upon it.
The depth to which the organization has dipped demands an open mind; you must find out just how valuable others think your limited commodities have become.
That includes Ryan Dempster (though he has a veteran’s veto power), Alfonso Soriano (though his price tag is highly prohibitive), Matt Garza (an AL contender’s dream), Bryan LaHair (with Anthony Rizzo itching to take his spot) and even Starlin Castro.
No one, sadly, is untouchable.
There’s a difference between actively shopping a player and listening when his name is brought up by someone else.
If you’re the Cubs, you listen with a keen ear.
To relinquish a possession like Castro, it had better be a world-class offer. I’d want one young, cheap “ready-now” player with a bit of salary control remaining — and two “high-ceiling” prospects. Perhaps both and certainly one of those should be potential front-end starting pitchers.
Imagine the value you have to compensate for. There’s his output as it stands right now, his future possibilities and his youth as represented by salary protection. Castro’s as cheap as Spam and not eligible for free agency until 2017.
The Cubs must not dismiss a trade for three reasons.
First, their time horizon is so far away. By the year they’ll be good, Castro’s salary protected seasons will be partially gone.
Second — and this is a genuine question without much judgment passed — do you trust him? His off-season featured a publicized, if now nonthreatening, legal issue.
And is this a player who works incredibly hard to maximize his potential?
I ask that about both his physical shape and about how hard he works on his defense. It’s the Cubs’ enormous responsibility to decide whether Castro has accepted input and worked to improve his obvious deficiencies. That footwork is still so often poor. It’s early, but color me surprised if he’s not a third baseman within two seasons.
Lastly, and most important, what is the top-end type of player he will become? He makes contact like crazy, with the most hits in the majors since the day he came up.
But that’s not the whole offensive picture. He simply does not walk.
Player comparisons are dangerous, inexact things that will only bring about frustration and derision.
But bring it on … they’re way too much fun.
When I first saw Castro, I dreamed of Hanley Ramirez. But by his first full season, Ramirez already was hitting 17 homers, and the consistent power came quickly thereafter.
Another early comp for Castro was Derek Jeter. Maybe you’ve heard Dave Concepcion, or Edgar Renteria.
What if he ends up being Michael Young?
The Rangers 3B/DH is a man whose OBP (a stat understandably beloved by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer) is largely dependent on his batting average, like Castro.
Young has never walked more than 58 times in a season — but he has had more than 200 hits six times, hit over .300 seven times and hit 20-plus homers four times.
Castro may not develop that kind of power, but he will steal a few more bases than Young, who has reached low double digits four times.
Young essentially has no defensive position, having started at second, played some shortstop, some at third, some outfield and now plays mostly as an atypical DH. He’s a multiyear all-star and gets MVP votes every couple of years.
He’s a worthwhile, very good player. But is he a star? Is he a cornerstone? No.
Is he an essential, build-around-me run producer? No.
And quite possibly Starlin Castro won’t be either.
Keep him if you can, Cubs, but don’t be afraid to listen. And if you’re blown away and make a deal, this space won’t yell at you.
ŸMatt Spiegel co-hosts “The McNeil & Spiegel Show” 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday on WSCR 670-AM, and The Score’s “Hit and Run” at 9 a.m. Sundays with his Daily Herald colleague, Barry Rozner. Follow him on Twitter @mattspiegel670. Matt thinks a runner trying to score from first on a double into the gap is the most exciting play in baseball.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.