With the Chicago Cubs trading Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland Athletics and getting a plethora of young prospects in return, including highly-regarded shortstop Addison Russell, it hasn’t taken long for rumors regarding Chicago’s current shortstop Starlin Castro to surface. At the center of the rumors involving Castro are the New York Mets.
On the surface, the Mets would appear to be the perfect trade partner for the Cubs regarding Castro, and that’s exactly what one report called the potential deal: “perfect.” The Mets have a desperate need at shortstop, and they also have a surplus of young pitching, something the Cubs don’t have, that could be used in a trade to acquire Castro. But just because it seems like a perfect fit doesn’t mean it’s a trade that the Mets should make.
Despite being just 24 years old, Castro has already signed a lucrative, long-term contract for eight years and $60 million that won’t expire until after the 2019 season. That contract throws a wrench in the plans that Mets fans are already making to for this upcoming offseason and is a hindrance to the Mets making Castro their shortstop.
For starters, the Mets may not be in a position to add another big money, long-term contract to their payroll. There have been no signs that Mets ownership is going to allow general manager Sandy Alderson to significantly raise the team’s payroll next offseason, and without a significant increase, taking on Castro’s contract would leave Alderson and the Mets with little payroll flexibility to solve the other problems on their roster outside of the shortstop position.
This offseason also brings a strong crop of shortstops to the free agent market, allowing the Mets to explore free agency as a potential solution at shortstop. Most of the shortstops on the market this offseason, with the likely exception of Hanley Ramirez, will not require a contract as long or expensive as what Castro has left on his current deal. Not only will most of these free agents be cheaper than Castro, but they won’t require the Mets to give up one or more of their top pitching prospects, which would be the case in a trade with Chicago.
The next thing to consider is the Mets’ farm system. While they don’t have many shortstop prospects who will provide immediate help, the Mets have a pair of promising prospects at that position in Gavin Cecchini and Amed Rosario. Obviously neither is a guarantee to reach the big leagues, but both have the potential to do so and could be major league viable long before Castro’s contract runs out in 2019. This means the Mets may be better off signing a free agent to a short-term deal this winter rather than trading for Castro and committing to him long term.
Finally, there’s the issue of Castro’s effort, hustle and focus, which have been called into question during his career. Do the Mets want to give up one or more of their prized pitching prospects for a young player who’s already financially secure and may not be motivated to play hard, work hard and continue to develop in order to reach his potential? As tantalizing as Castro is from a talent standpoint, trading for him does bring inherent risks with him already locked into a lucrative contract.
So while Castro may seem like a perfect fit for the Mets, they do have viable alternatives with regard to fixing their problems at shortstop. Making a trade for Castro either now or next offseason is not a move the Mets should make.