Matthew Cerrone of Metsblog is reporting that the Cubs are looking for pitching in a Starlin Castro trade, 'according to people familiar with the organization'. With Javier Baez breathing down his neck much more quickly than expected and the equally fast-moving Kris Bryant blocking Baez from moving to 3b, the Cubs might have to make up their mind sooner than they planned with Castro. Castro's replacement level season in 2013 can't be helping much either. Even Alcantara could probably have outhit Castro's numbers, which is another, though smaller, source of upward pressure on him.
It's always been tough to read how the organization feels about Castro. On the one hand, major league quality 23 year olds at premium positions are exactly the kind of assets that the Superfriends have been saying they want to build around since day one, and they liked him enough to gave him a team-friendly seven year extension last summer. On the other hand, one of the other things that this front office has been stressing that the Cubs org in general needs to get better at is on base percentage, something that Castro has had *just* a bit of trouble with. It may have been a big part of his struggles this year, as Castro changed his approach to take more pitches and became a far worse hitter. He eventually gave up and went back to his free swinging self for the last month or so of the season and went from being awful to just kinda bad. He's also been a flashpoint with each of his last two managers for his defensive lapses, and while that may have had as much to do with the managers as him it's still something that follows him around now.
One other obvious pressing need for the team is the complete and utter lack of young pitching in their system. They have a few interesting arms, but most of them are way down in the minors and we know well enough what to count on from pitching prospects. Seeing the flurry of insane flamethrowing rookie pitching from the Cardinals this postseason was disheartening to say the least, and only highlighted this issue for Cubs fans (at least, for me, and I guess GBTS's mom too – say hi to her for me).
If the Cubs hold on to Castro, the big question is then what they do with him. Baez sticking at SS seems to sound like more of a possibility than it was a year ago, despite roughly 821 errors last year. Castro's best asset at SS has always been his range, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him as a plus defender at second. The other possibility that's been floated around is to move him to CF, but I'd have to take a wait and see approach on that one. I do feel confident in saying that I'd much rather have a top (or top-ish) young starter than Castro in CF.
Of course, one other problem is that if the Cubs trade Castro this offseason, they'd certainly be selling low. He just looked absolutely awful last year. Maybe if he bounces back next year the Cubs could get a lot more for him next offseason, as that gaping pitching hole isn't going anywhere. But you have to worry a bit about teams seeing that they need to move him if it looks clear that Baez is going to take his job, thus hurting his value.