My wife loves to watch "reality" home makeover and flipping shows. Rehab Addict, Flip or Flop, and, of course, Love It or List It and Property Brothers. Naturally, I sometimes find myself watching along with her and I've learned a couple things.
First, nearly everyone involved in the the flipping industry is far more good-looking than the average person. Second, prospective home buyers don't often make for very good actors. While their clearly-scripted objections come off a little better than the corny antics of the Duck Dynasty crew, the delivery is lacking.
But I'm not here to debate the verisimilitude of the TV shows for which my wife, who is clearly not alone, has a strange affinity. Rather, I want to look at the Cubs' propensity of late for finding reclamation projects, fixing them up, and selling them off for cost-controlled prospects soon after.
Such was the case with Paul Maholm, Scott Feldman, and Jason Hammel. And while Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza were far from unique fixer-upper opportunities, the Cubs front office was able to turn their expiring deals into a lot of young talent. So in a way, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are like the Drew and Jonathan Scott of baseball, just without the latter's modern-day Zack Morris hair.
The stars of popular shows seek to turn run-down homes into palaces for profit, turning short term commodities into long-term assets. They don't buy these homes with the intention of living in them; rather, they are a means to an end. A way to make money through both the sale of the home and the filming and broadcast of the product.
Sounds like the Cubs. Of course, that hasn't stopped many fans from bemoaning the fact that the Cubs trade off every good major league player they have or lamenting the inevitable trading away of all the current prospects for more prospects. But there is some grain of truth behind the misguided gripes.
After all, the reason the Cubs have gotten good returns on their trades is that the players they've picked up have performed well on the North Side. On a team filled with temporary pieces, a good player is going to stand out. And since the team has made a lot of trades without really moving forward, at the big league level at least, there's a fear that this is simply a churn-and-burn strategy.
But the Cubs have yet to move any young, cost-controlled talent in these moves, seeking to acquire those pieces rather than jettison them. But the stockpile of ammunition at shortstop has led to some talk about a change in strategy, perhaps with a top-flight arm coming back in return.
Tom wrote about exactly that very recently, so I will try not to re-hash that. Rather, what I want to discuss is the possibility of Starlin Castro being a part of those talks. I'm an admitted Castro apologist, so this could just be emotion talking, but I just can't see any value in trading this guy away.
I mean, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush league, right? Sure, Starlin has his weaknesses, some of which may never fully go away. Though he's still a young player, this is his fifth season in the majors, so it's unlikely that we'll see much better than incremental improvement moving forward.
Then again, when you're talking about a team that probably won't contend on a legitimate basis for another couple years, incremental improvement could be enough. Castro's off year in 2013 had people singing a different tune though, as many were ready to run him out of town in exchange for a bag of balls and a fungo bat.
Never mind that he was the youngest player in the majors when he debuted, or that he led the NL in hits (207) in his first full season, becoming the youngest ever to do so and the youngest Cub to collect 200 hits. No, the down year nearly erased all of that good will.
Prospects are sexy, there's no doubt about that. But part of that illicit appeal comes from the excitement of potential. Like the diagrams a contractor shows homeowners, prospects represent a dream of what might be. But reality has a funny way of messing with dreams.
It's possible that every single one of the Cubs' touted middle-infield prospects pans out, but would you be willing to be that against a 24-year-old, 3-time All Star who is on pace for near 20 HRs and 90 RBI? And that's on a bad team; imagine what he could do with protection in the lineup.
And there's the fact that Castro is locked up for several more years with a club-friendly deal. Now, if the numbers on the diamond plateau as those on the ledger climb, we might be having a different conversation. Then again, all of those facts could be used as an argument to move him now, to sell high when the market is at its peak.
But if I'm the Cubs FO, I'm looking for any way I can to keep Starlin in Chicago, even if that means selling off some sparkle. Just not Kris Bryant though. Never Kris Bryant.
As fun as it might be to project lineups that include nothing but draft picks and IFA acquisitions, that's further from reality than, well, reality TV. Castro has proven that he can be a valuable piece for the Cubs moving forward and I sincerely hope that it's as a member of the team and not as trade bait.
So when it comes to the all-important question of whether the Cubs are going to with Starlin Castro, I believe they're going to love him. But I've been reminded before that the Cubs don't care what I think. I, however, do care what you think. So I ask you, dear reader: will the Cubs trade Castro? Should they? Share your thoughts in the comments or tweet me.
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