Trade speculation surrounding Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro is heating up in the wake of the Jeff Samardzija deal. The team mentioned the most in those rumors is the New York Mets. After all, the Mets have had a gaping vacuum at shortstop since the loss of Jose Reyes in free agency following the 2011 season. Also, the Cubs are looking for pitching prospects that are in the majors or almost ready for the majors. The Mets have a surplus in that department. Would it be wise for the Mets to pursue Castro?
As with any trade, the answer is tied to what they’d have to give up. The Mets are not in the middle of a magical playoff run, and they’re not in win-now mode. They’re transitioning from a rebuild to a build-up (at least that’s the plan). So it’s not readily obvious whether or not they should hang onto their prospects, trade for more prospects, or trade for established major league players. So should the Mets trade someone like Zack Wheeler for Castro?
A little of the bloom has gone off of Wheeler’s rose this year since he didn’t take the league by storm like Matt Harvey did in 2013. But the Mets’ cable network, SportsNet New York, compared Wheeler’s first 31 starts to those of Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Zach Greinke and Felix Hernandez. Their numbers are very similar at that point in their careers. In fact, Wheeler has the exact same ERA (3.84) that Verlander and Greinke had, only with a better K/9 ratio. Given the injury to Harvey and the blemishes displayed by prospects Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard this year, the Mets should hang onto Wheeler.
If the Mets can get Castro for a guy like Montero or Jacob deGrom, who are not considered the caliber of prospect Syndergaard is, they should pull the trigger on the trade. Would that be enough for Chicago? If they are desperate to unload the rest of Castro’s eight-year, $60.57 million contract, that just might get the job done.
Castro himself is no sure thing. He’s among the top five hitting shortstops in the game this year with a 118 wRC+. The problem, as it has always been with him, is his minuscule walk rate of 5.7 percent. Castro has to be at or near 200 hits every year to be effective. In other words, if his hit tool falters, he doesn’t have any other weapons to fall back on. That’s what happened to him last year. He had a .245/.284/.347 slash line because he stopped hitting and couldn’t find another way to get on base. In fairness, the 24-year-old has had three very good seasons including this one, and he’s yet to reach his prime years.
Castro would be an upgrade for the Mets at shortstop, even over the newly-resurgent Ruben Tejada. If the Mets can get him without thinning out their pitching depth too much, then he’s worth it. But New York shouldn’t fleece their farm system for a good-but-imperfect player.