Starlin Castro’s name figures to be in trade rumors throughout the offseason, and the New York Daily News delivered Friday morning by reporting the Yankees had discussed a Brett Gardner trade with the Cubs as part of their wide-ranging talks involving the All-Star outfielder.
The Daily News adjusted its reporting hours later, spiking the idea of a Castro-for-Gardner deal.
If the Yankees move Gardner, an industry source said, the belief is they will want a lower-cost player to create more financial flexibility as part of an overall youth movement within the final years of the Alex Rodriguez/Mark Teixeira/CC Sabathia megadeals.
Castro, who has notched 991 career hits before his 26th birthday, is guaranteed $38 million across the next four seasons and coming off a strong finish to this year, helping the Cubs advance to the National League Championship Series.
Never say never when you’re talking about potential deals, but another source said the Cubs have scenarios where Castro sticks around next season as their primary second baseman.
Theo Epstein’s front office and Joe Maddon’s coaching staff appreciated the way Castro handled Addison Russell taking over at shortstop in August, how a three-time All-Star didn’t complain and remade himself at a new position.
A third source predicted the Cubs will find their next centerfielder by either making a small trade or signing a free agent. The assumption being Dexter Fowler will get paid somewhere else, with most of the available resources poured into the pitching staff this winter.
The Yankees didn’t bite when the Cubs shopped Castro at the July 31 trade deadline, but they are said to at least be open-minded about a player who sometimes has a perception problem, given his uneven performance and concentration issues in the past.
Jim Hendry – the former Cubs general manager who promoted Castro to the big leagues from Double-A Tennessee in 2010 – is now a special assistant to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.
[SHOP CUBS: Get your Cubs gear right here]
There’s a lot to like about Gardner, a self-made player who – as the story goes – got cut from the College of Charleston team before making it as a walk-on and ultimately developing into a World Series champion in 2009.
Gardner has 34 playoff games on his resume, a career .346 on-base percentage and a reputation for being a good leader. But he’s 32 years old and reportedly owed $38 million across the next three seasons.
In terms of a more realistic match, Fox Sports identified Atlanta’s controllable starting pitchers (Julio Teheran, Shelby Miller) as targets for the Cubs. In trying to build a World Series contender for 2016, the sense is the Cubs will try to use their dollars and trade chips to address the pitching deficit.