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Cubs hoping to finish contract extension with Starlin Castro soon

Chicago Cubs v Cincinnati Reds

Chicago Cubs v Cincinnati Reds

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Updated: September 19, 2012 6:15AM

CINCINNATI — The Reds are where the Cubs want to be.

And the Cubs would be wise to do a lot of the same things Reds general manager Walt Jocketty did that enabled his team to reach the final seven weeks of the season with the biggest division lead and the second-best record in the majors.

It probably starts with bringing in guys such as Anthony Rizzo at first base, maybe developing guys such as Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters, and definitely with extending guys such as 22-year-old two-time All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro.

Both sides confirmed they’re in the midst of contract-extension talks for Castro that could lock up last year’s National League hits leader beyond his four arbitration-eligible seasons.

‘‘Because he was called up at such a young age, he would get free agency at 26,’’ Epstein said, ‘‘so that gives you an opportunity to possibly . . . buy out some free-agent years, maybe with a club option, and extend his stay here through his prime. We see him as being a core player for us.’’

To understand the value of young core players and extended club control of them, the Cubs only had to look across the field at a Reds team that beat them 7-3 on Friday night — a team that started five homegrown players, even with Joey Votto on the disabled list.

Another, Cy Young contender Johnny Cueto, starts the opener of Saturday’s doubleheader.

Among them, Votto is under contract through 2023, Jay Bruce through 2016, Cueto through 2014.

‘‘I know they’ve been talking some time about trying to do, like, a young team,’’ Castro said. ‘‘And me and Rizzo are two of those young teammates. Hopefully when the team’s going to be good, it can be me and him [that will] be here for a long time. That’s what I put in my mind. And just play baseball. . . . Everybody knows I’m working hard. It’s very important for me to win games. . . .

‘‘A lot of people here want to win. That’s why maybe they want to try to do an extension with me, because [they want] me to be the face of the franchise, me and Rizzo. But I told my agent I don’t want to think about that. I want to finish my season strong, and if you’re getting closer, you tell me.’’

Castro said the team approached his agent, Paul Kinzer, near the All-Star break and then tabled the issue until after the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. He acknowledged that may have played a role in his second-half struggles and is why he doesn’t want daily updates.

Talks have progressed enough that some expect a deal to be completed this month — possibly next week.

One source said the deal is likely to be in the range of five years or four plus an option, though Castro said he’s fine with six or seven years and suggested he’d offer a discount for the length.

‘‘I want to be here,’’ he said. ‘‘I don’t care if I leave money [on the table]. But I don’t want to go year to year.’’

NOTES: The Cubs plan to recall left-hander Brooks Raley (0-2, 9.00) from Class AAA Iowa as a one-time 26th man to start the second game of Saturday’s day-night doubleheader. A rule that went into effect this year allows teams to add an extra player when a postponement forces a doubleheader.

◆ Epstein said he plans to start interviewing candidates — one from the outside, two from inside the organization — for the farm director’s job next week. Longtime farm director Oneri Fleita was fired this past week. The Cubs’ first-year minor-league field coordinator, Brandon Hyde, is believed to be a candidate.

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