Just to be crystal clear up front: no, I don’t think Starlin Castro is going to be traded this month, and no, I don’t even think it’s really on the radar. Any waiver-related stuff involving Castro likely fell into the “why not? there’s no reason not to” department, and whatever happened is just interesting info (as opposed to something that drives a rumor).
We learned last week that Starlin Castro had been placed on revocable trade waivers, which is not at all uncommon in August, and didn’t necessarily mean any activity was coming. As I said then, I was mostly just curious about what would happen, and if we would find out. Would Castro be claimed (and then almost certainly pulled back by the Cubs)? By which team? Or would he clear waivers on the strength of his too-robust-for-other-teams contract?
Well, Jon Heyman reports that Castro did, in fact, clear waivers. (The Heyman piece actually has a ton of stuff on the Cubs, so you should check it out anyway. I’ll discuss the Kris Bryant part separately at some point.)
In other words, Castro – and his contract – was declined by every other team in baseball, even if the theoretical acquisition cost was nothing.
Sometimes, when you hear that a big name clears waivers, it’s because teams knew it would be futile to claim the player, as the waiving team would not let the player go and would not be inclined to work out a trade. For example, it was reported earlier in the month that Dexter Fowler cleared waivers, and many folks wondered how that was possible, since tons of teams should want Fowler on his present deal. It’s because claiming him at that point would have been silly – the Cubs weren’t going to trade one of their most important players, and they certainly weren’t going to let him go for nothing. So there is, I believe, an odd kind of honor system: don’t claim guys when it would be silly to do so.*
(Why put Fowler on waivers then, at all? Well, just in case. What if the Cubs had suddenly lost 20 straight games in August? What if some crazy, can’t miss deal arose? You never quite know, and the risk in putting a guy on revocable trade waivers is zero.)
Any chance this is what happened with respect to Castro? That teams knew if they claimed him, a trade wouldn’t be worked out, and the Cubs wouldn’t let him go, so there was no point? I suppose it’s possible that some teams thought that way, but, we have to be honest: it’s also quite possible that Castro’s contract – which pays him close to $40 million from 2016 to 2019 – combined with his performance and projected future performance, made him unattractive to other teams at any price.
As we head toward the offseason, one in which Castro trade rumors are likely to swirl again, it’s worth keeping this new data point in mind. It’s very likely that the rest of MLB, by their own actions, just indicated a collective belief that Castro’s contract has negative value.
I still like the potential for Castro to return to the guy he was in recent years, but it’s going to be tricky for that to happen in Chicago. And if the Cubs aren’t going to be interested in selling him for pennies on the dollar, maybe he comes back in 2016 in a utility role, providing whatever value he can.
As indicated in the title: this is all for future information and posterity only. Castro is presently a member of the Cubs who can very much contribute meaningfully down the stretch, whatever his role. I hope he does that, and then we can cross this bridge again in November and beyond.