As Starlin Castro works his way back into big league (well, Spring Training) game action, top Chicago Cubs prospect Javier Baez prepares to open the season as the AAA Iowa Cubs’ starting shortstop. And, from day one, fans will be obsessively watching his progress, and that of his big league counterpart, Castro. Yes, Baez saw a little time at second base earlier this Spring, and sure, he might see some time there at Iowa occasionally. But his highest and best value comes at shortstop, and with persistent questions about Starlin Castro’s long-term value there (some reasonable, some not), the Javy v. Starlin narrative is going to be a mainstay of the early season.
For that reason, it’s very nice to dispense with one piece right now: Starlin Castro isn’t planning on big-timing anyone when it comes to where he plays.
Dave Kaplan recently spoke to Castro about Javier Baez, and he had some very nice things to say about a guy he hopes is his future teammate. For that reason, alone, the article is worth a read.
But the money quote came when Kaplan asked something many folks have wondered: would Castro be open to moving off of shortstop to accommodate Javier Baez, if that’s the direction things went? Castro was unequivocal in his response to Kaplan.
“Yes [I would move], whatever it takes. If I need to move positions, I’m OK with that. If he is on our team and him being there helps the team win, then I am fine with that. I just want our team to win. That’s it.”
It’s good to know that Castro – still just 24, but a big league vet – has the right attitude when it comes to Baez. The decision on whether to move one or the other is actually a fairly complicated one, because it depends not only on which player is best at shortstop. It also depends on which player would be best at second (or another position); on the relative difference in “goodness” between the two players at each position and the positional values you attach to each position; and on the long-term plans for each player.
It’s clear at this point that Baez’s upside is greater than Castro’s, so if it’s reasonable to keep him at shortstop, you’d like to do that. But if the Cubs want to see Castro rebound this year at shortstop – to give themselves options going forward – then they’ve got to keep him there all year.
We’ll see how things actually play out. Remember, Baez remains a prospect with some kinks in his game to work out before any of this becomes a real issue. That could take a month, or it could take several months. Or there could be an injury in here somewhere. The point is, all we really know at this point is that the Cubs have a long-term shortstop at the big league level, and they’d like to keep him at shortstop. The Cubs also have a long-term shortstop at the AAA level, and they’d like to keep him at shortstop. Each player has said he would be willing to move positions if it helps the team.
It’s a good problem to have, and it becomes an even better problem if both players blow it out of the water in the first few months of 2014. So, you know, root for that.