A centerpiece in the Chicago Cubs’ rebuilding movement, 22-year-old shortstop Starlin Castro has agreed to seven-year, $60 million contract extension, according to ESPNdeportesLosAngeles.com and multiple media outlets.
CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman reported that Castro’s contract includes a $16 million option for an eighth year in 2020 along with a $1 million buyout that is part of the $60 million in guaranteed money.
ESPNChicago.com’s Doug Padilla wrote that contract language still must be authored and the extension might not be finalized for another two weeks, but the signing represents the strategy of first-year president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and first-year general manager Jed Hoyer to craft a contender around young core players.
Second baseman Darwin Barney and right-handed starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija are other young Cubs who could get long-term deals in the future. First base phenom Anthony Rizzo is another candidate, but since he has yet to play a full season in the majors, an extension is likely a few years away.
The Cubs did not have to move forward with extending Castro this early in his career. The deal covers four years of arbitration eligibility and three years of free agency.
A two-time All-Star who is in his third Major League season, Castro became the youngest player in National League history to lead the league in hits when he completed the 2011 season with 207. He batted .307 with 10 home runs, 66 RBI, 22 stolen bases and nine triples.
This year, the Dominican Republic native has a .280 average with 12 home runs, 60 RBI, nine triples and 20 steals.
Castro’s long-term deal likely signals that the team will move 19-year-old shortstop Javier Baez to third base when he reaches the higher levels of the farm system. A first round pick (ninth overall) in 2011, Baez is No. 50 on MLB’s top 100 prospects list. Baez projects as a plus defender who can hit for average and power. He was recently promoted to advanced Single-A Daytona Beach after batting .333 with 12 home runs, 33 RBI, 20 stolen bases and a .979 OPS at low Single-A Peoria.
If the Cubs commit to Barney long term at second base, they could have an infield featuring Rizzo, Barney, Castro and Baez. The club also has highly regarded third base prospect Christian Villaneuva, who was acquired from Texas in the Ryan Dempster trade and is Baez’s teammate at Daytona Beach.