starlin castro javier baezAs 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┬árelative difference┬áin “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.

  • diamonddon

    Castro’s maturity is starting to show.

    • MightyBear

      Great point. I agree. We sometimes forget that this kid just turned 24.

  • Luke

    If you count Alcantara, the Cubs potentially have two long term shortstops at Triple A.

    It’s probably worth noting as well that, while Baez can clearly handle short today, in a few more years of muscling up he may be better suited for second or third (there doesn’t appear to be a consensus on that point). Castro projects to be just fine at short for a long time.

    That said, anything that give me my dream scenario of Castro, Olt, Baez, Bryant, and Alcantara all being productive in the lineup is something I’m ok with.

    • On The Farm

      I thought I saw that moving Alcantara off of SS wasn’t necessarily just because of Baez’s promotion. I thought he had a tough time handling SS. I obviously don’t have links to back me up and am trying to go off of memory here.

    • AndPrintIt

      I believe Alcantara is key. The Cubs lineup of the future currently projects to be extremely right-handed (Castro, Olt, Baez, Bryant, Almora, Soler, Castillo). Rizzo is the only lefty. Arismendy would add someone else who could hit from the left side. He would also bring much-needed speed whilst also offering some power.

      However, getting him into the lineup means one less position for Baez or Castro to move. If one of them moves to third (Baez?, in spite of his preference for 2nd over 3rd), Olt and Bryant are relegated to the outfield, which would have only one vacancy. (And I’m not sure Olt has ever played the OF.)

      I think the only way Baez, Castro, and Alcantara play together is if Olt is traded. Baez could then move to 3rd while Bryant goes to the OF.

      Alternatively, Castro gets traded, allowing Baez to remain at short. Olt stays at 3rd and Bryant still goes to the OF.

      Someone is going to have to go. I just hope Olt or Castro play well enough to be the centerpiece of a deal that brings a TOR arm back.

      (Of course, Alcantara could flame out at AAA, allowing Castro or Baez to take 2nd. But that would be a ridiculously right-handed lineup. Or Soler may never become the player people thought he could be, opening up an OF spot.)

      Having too much (potential) talent and not enough positions. It’s a great problem to have. And it only took 100+ years to get here.

      • jammin502

        Don’t discount Junior Lake just yet. I am looking for him to have a big 2014 and might just be the best out of all of them. With that said, I believe that Olt is the key. If he solidifies 3B then Bryant needs to move to the OF, Baez to short or second, and maybe Alcantara to CF. You are right about all the right handers, which is why I hope Bonifacio does well this year and sticks around awhile.

  • MightyBear

    Great attitude by Castro but unnecessary. Baez doesn’t have as good of range as Castro and that will probably decrease as he gets older and bigger. Castro’s errors have gone down every year and his range is better than Baez. “Castro’s our shortstop.” – Jed Hoyer

    • C. Steadman

      Agreed, I think Castro will surprise with his defense this year. I ultimately think Baez will move off SS and go to 2B/3B.

  • Cheese Chad

    Let’s be honest, if a guy named, oh let’s say Chad Watkins were productive at the big league level we’d take it. Okay, fine, I’ll suit up.

    • Fishin Phil

      Not so fast there Sparky, what was you OPS last year??

      • Cheese Chad

        My BABIP was well below league average, but I smoke a hell of a brisket.

        • Fishin Phil

          As another backyard chef who recognizes a properly done brisket, you are hired!

  • itzscott

    This is GREAT!

    Can you imagine the offensive damage that can be done with an infield of Rizzo, Castro, Baez , Olt and Castillo?

    …..and that doesn’t even take into consideration an outfield of Bryant, Almora and Soler.

    You’ve heard of The Big Red Machine, this will be The Big Blue Machine.

  • cubs2015

    Regardless what happens it’s always good to see both players saying all the right stuff. Makes for an easier transition with less distraction. Having said that I don’t see many scenarios where Castro is bumped off of short, especially since Jed and others have publicly said Castro is the shortstop

  • Floyd7070

    Donnie Murphy to Rangers. Guess Kalish should make the team now. And Bonifacio, of course.

  • vitaminB

    I’m envisioning a roving middle infilend with each player not playing a true position, but rotating before each pitch based on the count and what pitch is coming. We’re taking defense to a whole new level here.

  • fromthemitten

    I could see him being a productive LF/CF if either lake or Sweeney prove they’re not everyday players

    • fromthemitten

      I don’t want to see him at 3b since he has great range but makes too many bad throws

  • The Real Wrigley

    Nice to see the team first attitude. I like it.

  • Darth Ivy

    “Or there could be an injury in here somewhere.”

  • Chad

    I recall somewhere that Baez said he actually prefers 2B?

  • http://BN Sacko

    I’m fine with more Sandberg numbers at 2nd.
    Castro stays at Short.