Cubs content to keep their coveted middle infielders
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter August 16, 2014 12:06AM
Updated: August 16, 2014 1:21AM
NEW YORK — Six weeks to the day, the Cubs returned for the first time to the East Coast, where they saw reminders of last month’s process-rattling trade everywhere they looked.
Or at least heard reminders of it from New York reporters every time they turned around in the Citi Field visitors’ clubhouse before the 3-2 loss Friday against the Mets.
Those are the same Mets who are starving for even one young shortstop with the ability of Starlin Castro or the promise of Javy Baez, Arismendy Alcantara or Addison Russell, the touted prospect the Cubs acquired in that 4-for-2 Jeff Samardzija trade with the Athletics on July 4.
General manager Jed Hoyer was asked if the Cubs really can find other positions for three shortstops and be able to use all four.
“I think we can be a better team for it in a lot of ways if we end up doing that,” Hoyer said.
So the Cubs don’t feel compelled to trade even one?
“No,” Hoyer said. “Not at all.”
That doesn’t mean it won’t happen once the Cubs get a better measure of their needs and what other teams might be offering for one of their prized middle infielders next winter and beyond.
But New York’s fascination with the Cubs’ stable of well-regarded shortstops only underscores the position of strength the front office believes the surplus provides.
Like New York fans and media six weeks ago, reporters focused on Castro as the guy the Mets might successfully target in exchange for the young pitching the Cubs lack.
But Castro might not be as expendable as many apparently think as a three-time All-Star who has improved his fielding and focus this year. He remains the only one of the four who has proved anything in the big leagues. And he’s just 24.
“I know myself, and I can do more,” said Castro, who equaled his career-high 14-game hitting streak with two more hits. “I can have better seasons every year.”
And he doesn’t want to change positions: “I showed people I can play that position my whole career.”
“He should want to stay there,” Hoyer said. “I’m glad to hear him say that. And that’s how we see it.”
It’s not going to stop the questions or the speculation — never mind that sources say the Mets have long coveted Russell far more than Castro. And they say that’s the shortstop it would take to get the kind of pitching the Cubs want from the Mets (think Zack Wheeler, who struck out 10 Cubs in 62/3 innings).
And what if the Cubs kept all the shortstops?
Dan Straily, the righty acquired in the Samardzija deal, vouched for the kind of impact that might have when he joined the club for a spot start Saturday (likely a prelude to a longer look in September).
He played with Baez in Class AAA Iowa until Baez’s big-league debut last week and saw just enough of Russell in drills at spring training to know the kind of talent the Cubs acquired in that deal.
“There’s a lot of talent down there,” said Straily, who compared what’s going on in the Cubs’ system to the A’s. “There’s just a whole culture of winning that’s being instilled. It was something I felt when I was with Oakland coming up. . . . We won, and you see that group of guys, and then that’s just kind of the trend that you keep going down there, and eventually it starts to translate. It’s exciting to be here.’’