Could The Tampa Bay Rays Get Starlin Castro?

Or, better question, should they be willing to pay the price?

Word has surfaced that the Chicago Cubs have left every piece on the table -- which means 21-year-old shortstop Starlin Castro is available. Oh, the Cubs are hurting for pitching depth, you say?

Okay, slow your role, as the poet Deion Sanders once said in a terrible commercial. First: Do we actually want Castro?

Do the Rays Want/Need Castro?
The Tampa Bay Rays -- as we well know -- did not do great last year in the whole shortstop arena. Not only did Reid Brignac bring a whole heaping of regret soup, Sean Rodriguez failed to translate his minor league power numbers into major league awesome and looked better defensively at second. So in 2011, the Rays' shortstop stew was two parts Brignac regret, two parts out-of-place Rodriguez, and one part Elliot Johnson.

But that does not mean the Rays lack options for the future? No. In fact, Tim Beckham and Hak-Ju Lee are easing up through the system. Beckham may not be the greatest first round pick in the franchise's history, but he should make a starting-quality shortstop and could even fight for some playing time in 2012.

So, the Rays are not without options -- and Castro is not without faults. Last year, Starlin nearly cost the Cubs a whole win (about 0.8 WAR) from his defensive gaffs alone. Personally, having watched Starlin play quite a lot, I believe his problems will fade with time. Most of his struggles come from errors, not a lack of range or athleticism -- which is not unlike B.J. Upton (which is not a good sign), but also not unlike Alexei Ramirez (which is a great sign) when he first moved to short from second.

Even if his defense does not come around, Castro was still worth 3.4 WAR in 2011 and is projected only to improve offensively as times goes. So, at least, I imagine Starlin makes a 4.0 win shortstop. That begs us ask:

How Much Will Castro Cost?
Using Sky Kalkman's trade calculator, we can make a decent guess at what Castro might cost at most to acquire. Depending on how you project his following years, his value obviously differs greatly. For argument's sake, let's say Castro blossoms into a 7.0 WAR player as soon as 2014, following this pattern:

Year Sal (M) WAR Val (M) Net (M)
2012 $0.4 5.0 $22.9 $22.5
2013 $8.6 6.0 $27.4 $18.8
2014 $14.9 7.0 $31.9 $17.0
2015 $19.9 7.0 $31.9 $12.0
2016 $24.9 7.0 $31.9 $7.0

NOTE: I've tweaked the WAR/$ values (seen here in the Sal (M) column) to reflect some unpublished research from Matt Swartz suggesting -- among a bunch of things -- second basemen and shortstops actually get paid about $3.5M per win, not the league average $4.5M used in Sky's regular calculations. This adds to Castro's trade price tag, but also makes him more affordable on the Rays payroll. Altogether, it should be wash, though.

Ultimately, this Awesome Castro scenario comes to a trade value of $82.3M. Of course, by the end of his time with the Rays, Castro would theoretically be earning close to $25M -- if he earned a fourth year of arbitration and gets his FA-equivalent salary (NOTE: only two position players have been worth 21 WAR over the last three years -- Albert Pujols and Evan Longoria).

Remember, this is an ultra-optimistic projection for Castro. If this becomes the case for Castro, the Rays will happily swap him for some nasty-awesome prospects following the 2014 season and make Hak-Ju Lee or someone cheaper their everyday man.

Does that mean Castro will cost the Rays Matt Moore?

No. Moore, assuming he plateaus at 5.0 WAR (think: Jered Weaver good) and stays healthy, he would still be worth a cool half-million more than Starlin because the Cubs have already burned two years of team control on Castro.

So here's my proposal: Alex Cobb (worth $55.4M in Trade Bucks) plus a mid-level prospect (someone worth $27M or so) for Starlin Castro. Look, I like Alex Cobb as much or more than the next fellow, oh, so maybe that makes me biased? Well, anyway, if Alex plateaus at 3.0 WAR (think: a little less than Ryan-Dempster-good), he will be about $27M short of Starlin's value.

So:

Alex Cobb ($55.4M) + low level pitching prospect ($27M) = Starlin Castro ($82.5M)

Who is this mythical $27M prospect? I don't know. Ian or the guys at Rays Prospects would be better equipped to answer that. The truth is, he may not have to be that good. Sky's calculator suggests it would need to be someone worth 7.1 WAR with no time on his MLB service clock.

So, maybe Marquis Fleming? I don't know. Even that might be way too much.

What do you say DRBers? Should the Rays pursue Starlin Castro? As I am wont to do, I have added poll, but if your opinion is not therein-featured, please sound off in the comments below. Am I crazy? Of course I'm not, but go ahead try to convince me I am anyway.

GIFT: Here's a copy of my spreadsheet for this post.


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