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The Chicago Cubs and their Starlin Castro Dilemma

The Chicago Cubs may have a potential dilemma on their hands this winter involving their star shortstop. What should they do with him?


It was only a matter of time during this lengthy and brutal rebuild that the Chicago Cubs are currently stuck in the middle of until someone ended up having their feelings hurt. Unfortunately for the Cubs, the first person to have some issues with the way things are currently being run is that of star shortstop Starlin Castro.

Now, Castro has had his issues in the last couple of years. Despite the fact that he quickly rose to a status as one of the league's top men at short, Castro has some deficiencies in his game that have been cause for concern. However, given how wildly successful his first two years in the bigs had been, they weren't actually addressed. Now that they are being addressed, in a season where he's struggling, Castro has taken issue with the way things are being run.

As posted over at the outstanding Cubs blog, Cubs Den, Castro has taken issue with "multiple voices" that have come to his aid during this down year for him. In a season in which his batting average has dipped almost 50 points, and where some of the issues, such as his hand movement at the plate, have been glaring, fighting off adjustments from those around you probably isn't the best route to take.

This is where the dilemma begins with Starlin Castro. Throughout his brief tenure in this league, Castro has been a player prone to mental mistakes. He's had numerous mental lapses over he course of the last few years, both on the basepaths and particularly in the field. At the plate, he's currently mired in a season in which he's walking even less and striking out more. Regardless of where you fall on the general opinion on Castro, there's no doubt that there are some problems here.

Those problems start with his play in the field. You don't need to look at defensive metrics to know that he's had a rough go of things with the glove. His UZR per 150 innings for the season is -5.3. He was just over +2 last season, but in 2011 he was at a -7.5. Most of them have been fielding errors, with 41 of his 72 errors in the last three seasons coming before he even has a chance to make the throw. His ErrR (Error runs above average) has been deep in the negative each season he's been in the league.

Fielding metrics aren't perfect, but again, it doesn't take a genius to know that Starlin isn't exactly a wizard with the leather. Then you look at the regression he's taken at the plate this season, and things get really concerning.

Starlin has chased less pitches this year, but he's also making less contact on pitches in the zone. His Z-Contact % (percentage of balls he's made contact with in the strike zone) has dipped by five percent. Which has led to his strikeout rate jumping to 19 percent. His wOBA for the season is a measly .271, and his wRC+ for the season is a paltry 64. Even advanced stats can't help him out this year.

Even before this season, we all knew that Starlin Castro was an imperfect player. His 2011 season was brilliant. He was expected to take a bit of a step back in 2012, and he did, albeit a small regression. This season has been a gigantic step backward, probably mentally as well as physically. At this point, it begs the question as to what the Chicago Cubs should do with their young shortstop.

The idea of giving up on a player at 23 years of age would typically be absurd. At the same time, though, the regime of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer didn't draft Castro (though they did extend him). This is a team that has Javy Baez waiting in the wings. You're talking about a potential monster at shortstop, a true five tool talent. He's been tearing up the minors this season, to the tune of 34 home runs, a .922 OPS, and 20 swipes split between High-A and Double-A.

The Cubs' dilemma is this: do they throw up their arms amid all of the Starlin Castro frustration and deal him, while Baez comes in as the future at short? Or do they work through it, hope he can make adjustments and continue on the path of potentially becoming elite? There are benefits and questions for both, certainly. Regardless of which path the Cubs' front office takes, we'll know about it this winter.

. . .

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.

Randy Holt is a writer at Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @RandallPnkFloyd.

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