Starlin Castro not threatened by Cubs’ shortstop stockpile
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter July 5, 2014 6:31PM
Updated: July 6, 2014 2:33AM
WASHINGTON — Whatever message the blockbuster trade delivered to fans and the rest of baseball about the Cubs’ future, team president Theo Epstein had a specific message he delivered to shortstop Starlin Castro soon after the deal with the Oakland Athletics was done:
“This trade had nothing to do with Starlin Castro. This had everything to do with acquiring impact talent,” Epstein said Saturday after the Cubs added Addison Russell to their collection of touted minor-league shortstops. Russell is one of the top prospects at the position.
Epstein said he called Castro’s agent Friday night to assure the two-time All-Star that he’s still in the middle of the Cubs’ long-term plans — specifically, in the middle of the infield.
“We are ecstatic about the way he’s playing and about his development,” Epstein said. “It’s not easy to bounce back from the year he had last year, but he’s bounced back in a big way and is playing at an elite level.
“He’s a centerpiece-type guy for this organization. It’s hard to find shortstops who swing the bat like he does, and he’s taken a step forward with his defense this year, as well.”
Castro, who was 9-for-21 (.429) in the last week entering Saturday — and ranks first or second among National League shortstops in most offensive categories — said he isn’t worried about the sudden abundance of shortstops who could challenge him. He also said he likes the growing stockpile of good prospects in the system.
“I don’t put pressure on myself,” he said. “I’m here. I know I can do a good job here, too, and I don’t put pressure on myself because they bring in a shortstop or an infielder.”
He said he feels he’s back to being the player who earned All-Star selections in his first two full seasons in the majors. Castro also said if he’s asked eventually to change positions, he’ll play wherever he’s told to play.
“Starlin’s athletic enough and has enough tools to play a couple different spots on the diamond, but I don’t foresee that anytime in the near future,” Epstein said. “He’s getting better at shortstop. He’s a weapon at shortstop.”
Epstein said the Cubs could use their strengthened depth among non-pitchers in the system to fill needs via trade. Some teams already have asked about Castro, with the contending Mariners — who might feel compelled to answer the division-rival A’s
big trade — expressing strong interest.
“That’s not my decision to make. I don’t know,” Castro said of possibly being traded. “It’s a business, and a lot of things happen. We don’t know. We’re ready.”