The San Diego Padres and Chicago Cubs have both been all over the trade market trying to make moves. The Padres are clearly sellers, shopping most of their starting staff as well as a few position players. The Cubs are clearly buyers, looking for the same types of players the Padres are willing to give up.
The Padres have several pitchers and several outfielders that are of interest to the Cubs. Most immediate seem to be Justin Upton, Will Venable, Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, and James Shields. The Cubs also have the kind of players the Padres would want back in this kind of deal. Until today, there was not much rumbling about who specifically the Padres would want or who the Cubs would be willing to part with. That changed today with the following Tweet.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 27, 2015
As the above tweet demonstrates, there has been some discussion of the Padres acquiring Starlin Castro. This has been speculated on all season but it may be a little closer to actually happening because of the trade deadline. I am here to say that realistically the Padres should want nothing to do with Starlin Castro. It is hard to imagine a straight up deal of James Shields for Starlin Castro. Regardless of if the Cubs throw any other players such as Javier Baez in on the deal the Padres should not be jumping at this opportunity.
Castro has really never been anything much more than a slightly above average Major League player and only has increased value because of the scarcity in quality of shortstops in the Major Leagues in the last few years. It would make a lot more sense for the Padres to go after Javier Baez or some other possible prospects such as Billy McKinney or Gleybor Torres. This would make the monetary part of the deal a little more difficult but the Padres could pay down some of Shields salary or, in a way, “buy” a few of the Cubs prospects.
Starlin Castro does not make sense for the Padres in more ways than one. First off, his value may be at an all time low. After posting approximately 3.0 WAR seasons in 2011, 2012, and 2014, Castro has produced a negative 1.2 WAR so far in 2015. Yes he has been worse this season than Alexi Amarista and Clint Barmes combined- they have combined for a WAR of exactly zero by comparison.
Beyond that he has career lows in batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, ISO, and wRC+. It’s too early to assess whether Castro is already in decline at 25 but he has been a rather streaky player so far in his career. He also had a similar poor season in 2013 between his best years. During his good years Castro has been a bat first player who has struggled to play consistently plus defense. His poor defense, that has not improved as much as it has needed to over the course of his career, is another large concern for any team looking to make a trade for Castro. The upside is there on offense but the question marks are perhaps a bit more prominent on both offense and defense.
Beyond his play on the field, Castro has also had several issues off the field. The main issue in this regard was with an altercation in a night club in the offseason in which Castro’s brother was involved. On top of that, he has also had several issues with poor attitude on and off the field as well as poor play perhaps as a result of these distractions. A change of scenery may be good for Castro and his situation, but the risk of off field issues and poor attitude will still be a concern for the Padres going forward.
Despite his decline in performance this year and his off field issues, the main concern for the Padres in regard to Castro is his contract. Following this season, Starlin Castro has four years and forty million remaining on his contract with a club option worth 16 million for the fifth season or a $1 million buyout.
By itself this isn’t a terrible contract but the Padres already have quite a few disastrous contracts already on the books. Jedd Gyorko is owed another $33 million over the next five years. Matt Kemp is owed near $80 million over the next four years. Melvin Upton is owed around $33 million over the next two years. Craig Kimbrel is owed $32 million over the next three years. Finally James Shields is still owed $63 million over the next three years. The Padres do not need another expensive, high risk contract on the team.
If the Padres can trade either Shields or Gyorko to the Cubs in return for Castro it would lessen the financial burden on the Padres over the next several years. Despite this, Castro’s declining performance on the field raises many red flags. The Padres should not want to take on another contract for another player who has value below what he is being paid.
The Padres already have issues with Jedd Gyorko, Matt Kemp, and Melvin Upton making more money than they should be making given their value on the field. Starlin Castro seems to represent yet another drain on the Padres finances while not providing equivalent value on the field. The Padres should avoid Castro at all costs.