Finding a Match for Starlin Castro: Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates

Photo: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

While in the midst of a rebuild, the Miami Marlins will presumably listen to offers on 28 year-old infielder Starlin Castro. In his first year with the Marlins (came over from the Yankees in the Stanton deal), Castro had a very productive season, hitting for a .278 AVG and .329 OBP. He was worth 2.3 fWAR, and he slugged 12 HR and added 32 2Bs.

Starlin doesn’t offer much in terms of defensive value (0 DRS and 0.7 UZR/150), but it is important to note that his fielding (at 2B) improved significantly with the Marlins. In 2017, Castro’s DRS was -6 and his UZR/150 was a horrid -12.2.

Castro has one year remaining on his contract (becomes a FA after the 2019 season), and the Marlins already have several guys who could take over full time at 2B (if Castro were to be traded), one of which being Neil Walker. Walker struggled last season with the Yankees, hitting only .219 and accruing a mere 0.1 WAR. Part of the problem could have been that for the first time in his career, he was asked to play as the ultra-utility man, a role Walker was unaccustomed to.

By the sounds of it, that role is similar to the one he will play with the Marlins in 2019. Dan Szymborski of FanGraphs asserts that “he’ll likely play 1B, 2B, 3B, LF.” Walker would likely be better off if he was locked in as the starting 2B, which is exactly what he could be if the Marlins opt to trade the now-expendable Starlin Castro.

Walker could presumably keep the seat warm for highly-touted 2B prospect Isan Diaz, who undoubtedly needs more seasoning at AAA (where he hit for a .204 AVG and .281 OBP in 155 PAs). Come July, the Marlins could look to flip Walker for prospect(s) and subsequently call up Diaz to the majors (and give him the full time role at 2B assuming he’s ready).

We will integrate FanGraphs’ new Update to Prospect Valuation system in order to most precisely formulate realistic compensation that the Marlins could demand (for Starlin Castro) from the Brewers and Pirates.

results are presented in present-day WAR and translated to a rough dollar figure based on $9 million as the cost of a win on the free-agent market. Keep in mind that the dollar figure isn’t a direct value, but rather equivalent value of a prospect relative to the free-agent market. Part of the reason prospects have such tremendous value is due to the suppressed salaries permitted by the CBA until a player has reached six years of service time. By translating the WAR figure into a monetary value, we can compare the value of prospects with the values of major-league players and their contracts. These values likely roughly approximate what an individual player might get as a signing bonus if he were declared a free agent and teams could only provide a signing bonus instead of a long-term contract.

FanGraphs’ Craig Edwards

In other words, FanGraphs assigned a monetary value for all minor league prospects (based on how former prospects belonging to that tier / rank performed during the first 9 seasons of their baseball career [“including the season in which a prospect was ranked”]). These values are comparable to current major leaguers (calculated through incorporating WAR [$9 million / 1 WAR] and the cost of the player’s contract). 

Starlin Castro’s 2019 Projected WAR (per FanGraphs’ Depth Charts): 1.6 

In 2019, Castro will be payed $11 milllion. For the purpose of this investigation, let’s assume that the team who acquires him chooses to not pick up Castro’s option for the 2020 season ($16 million).

The calculations for Starlin Castro’s surplus monetary value can be seen below…

([1.6 WAR * $9 million / 1 WAR) – ($11 million) = $3.4 million in surplus monetary value

Here are some packages the Marlins could net for Starlin Castro…

Brewers

The Brewers could really use an upgrade at 2B. As of today, Hernan Perez would be the everyday 2B. Perez had a lackluster .253 batting AVG, and he has only modest power (9 HRs in 2018). He was worth 0.6 WAR last year. Here are two potential deals that could come to fruition…

1. RHP Zack Brown (45 FV; $4 million) for 2B Starlin Castro ($3.4 million) and $0.6 million in cash

Zack Brown performed very well in 2018 pitching as a 24 year-old at AA. He put a 2.44 ERA and struck out over 8 batters / 9 IP in 125.2 total innings. Brown conceded very few walks (2.58 batters / 9 IP) and generated GBs at a very high clip (56.0%). His ceiling is that of a #3/4 SP.

2. LF Troy Stokes Jr. (40 FV; $2 million), RHP Braden Webb (40 FV; $1 million), and $0.4 million in cash for 2B Starlin Castro ($3.4 million)

Outfielder Troy Stokes Jr. has sky-high upside. In 551 AA PAs, Stokes slugged 19 big flies and stole 19 bags. He walks frequently (11.8%) and has the potential to be a very good defender. Two drawbacks include his high tendency to swing and miss (26.7% K rate and .233 AVG) and his arm (graded as a 30 [out of 80) by FanGraphs).

Braden Webb also has good upside. He generates a lot of swings and misses (over 9 strikeouts / 9 IP), but has trouble finding the strike zone on a regular basis (BB rate just under 5), which makes one wonder whether or not he may better suited for the bullpen. Despite the aforementioned poor command, Webb put up respectable numbers at A+ (4.2 ERA) and pitched really well in 20 AA IP (1.8 ERA).

I think that this deal would benefit the Marlins more than the first one because they’d be getting an additional prospect. It (trade #2) has more upside as well.

Pirates

Quite honestly, the Pirates should be making it a priority to acquire an adequate SS. Kevin Newman is simply not going to cut it. He had a .209 AVG and a .247 OBP in just under 100 MLB PAs. Here are two deals that the Marlins and Pirates could explore…

1. 3B/OF Pablo Reyes (40 FV; $4 million) for 2B Starlin Castro ($3.4 million) and $0.6 million in cash

Pablo Reyes performed exceptionally well in his short time in the majors (just under 60 PAs), hitting for a .293 AVG and a .349 OBP. Reyes, capable of playing multiple positions (OF and 3B), also slugged 3 HRs. One of his biggest strengths is his ability to make contact. He rarely struck out at AAA (17.8%; he amassed nearly 400 PAs). Reyes offers decent speed as well (13 SBs at AAA). Reyes has proven himself to be ready for the MLB, and he will likely play a utility role in 2019.

2. CF Lolo Sanchez (40 FV; $2 million), RHP Travis MacGregor (40 FV; $1 million), and $0.4 million in cash for 2B Starlin Castro ($3.4 million)

Lolo Sanchez is an intriguing prospect whose biggest strengths include his speed (30 SBs in 114 Gs), defense, and plate discipline (BB: 9.3%; K: 16.3%). His bat is still a work in progress (.243 AVG and only 4 HRs). If Sanchez can develop either a better hit or power tool, he will likely become a starting CF. If he fails to do so, his role will be that of a bench OF.

Travis MacGregor had very good numbers at A (63.2 IP). His ERA was 3.25, and he struck out over 10 batters / 9 IP and he walked less than 3 batters / 9 IP. He was fairly hittable though (58 hits allowed). His ceiling is that of a back-end SP.

I think that the 1st deal would benefit the Marlins more because Reyes could fill the void left by Castro immediately. He is also more of a proven product than Sanchez and MacGregor.

Of all 4 potential deals, I would think that trade #2 of the Brewers makes the most sense for both sides. The Brewers get their 2B (Starlin Castro), and the Marlins get two high-upside prospects who aren’t too far way from arriving to the MLB.

Thanks for reading and make sure to follow me on Twitter @MaxGold81356590

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