The Chicago Cubs have optioned infielder Chad Tracy to Iowa (AAA) to make room for phenom Starlin Castro.
Castro, 20, first turned heads in the Arizona Fall League by hitting .376 and swiping 9 bases in just over 100 at-bats. This quickly earned Castro a spot on the spring training roster where the young shortstop hit .429 in 16 games before eventually being assigned to minor league camp. With Tennessee (AA) this year, he continued to hit, logging a .376 average with 14 extra-base hits and 20 RBI.
Now, Castro will get a chance in a big league ballgame and the Cubs hope that he could follow in the footsteps of Atlanta’s Jason Heyward and New York’s Ike Davis.
The decision to call up Castro comes at a strange time though. Both the Braves and the Mets made sure that the debut of their phenom would come at home, but the Cubs have opted to throw Castro into the mix during a six-game road trip. The move is also curious considering that Mike Fontenot has a hit in each of his last fifteen starts, because Fontenot is likely to move to the bench as Ryan Theriot slides over to make room for Castro.
The move also lacks sense from a financial point of view. Washington seems to have the right idea about their top prospect Stephen Strasburg. By waiting until the first week of June to call him up to the major leagues, it all but negates any chance that Strasburg will be granted super two status in the 2012-2013 off-season.
For those that don’t understand the arbitration process, players that have at least three years of service are eligible for salary arbitration, but players with less than three years of service must play at whatever price the team thinks is “fair”. (This is the reason why Prince Fielder made $670,000 in 2008 after hitting a league-leading 50 homeruns in 2007.) An exception is granted to the senior-most 17 percent of the players between two and three years of major league service. These players are dubbed “super twos” and are also eligible for arbitration.
Though it’s impossible to predict exactly when the cut-off line for super twos is going to be, historical evidence shows that the line is near 2 years and 130 days each year. Last year, Fontenot was granted super two status with 2 years and 139 days and his salary jumped from $430,000 to $1 million as a result.
While Fontenot’s $560,000 pay hike might not seem like a lot, super two status can make a big difference for superstars: San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum saw his salary rise from $650,000 to $8 million last winter. So if the Cubs are hoping that Castro does turn into the next great superstar, it would do them a lot of good to wait until June to give him the call. As it stands now, Castro would log 150 days of service time if he remains with the big league club from now until the end of the season.
But, after getting swept by the Pittsburgh Pirates in a three-game series in which the Bucs outscored the Cubs by 18-5, it looks like the Cubs have hit the panic button. The team is hoping that this flashy move will bring sparks to ignite the team again.
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Written by Eddie Kim