Item #6 on Theo's Checklist For World Domination:
- follow existing players - cut the ones that suck, sign the ones that don't to club-friendly extensions
Starlin Castro got paid today. I don't just mean paid, like what he usually gets on the first and fifteenth. I mean Paid like a bawss. So now that he is safe and secure and a millionaire and he and all of his unborn children and grandchildren never have to do an honest day's work ever, you may ask if this is going to improve his performance.
Which would be ridiculous. The Salary Extension For Up-and-Coming Stars Method has been in place for a few years now, and not once can I cite an example where the player's performance improved noticeably after the signing. So don't expect Starlin to double his homer rate, or cut way down on his errors. Trust me, I'm sure he's glad to have the money, but it wasn't like he was starving, and with the bump in pay could afford a few more steaks-n-chops in his diet, boosting his average.
There are a few examples where the player took a downturn (Hi, Ryan Howard!) but it was due to injury. Howard was a lot closer to 30 years old than Castro is, and a hella lot more swoled, so we shouldn't have to worry about our guy throwing his back out. Unlike the time Jim Hendry bid against himself for a "30 year old" Alfonso Soriano, Castro's youth and precocious start in the league makes this investment about as safe as any Free Agency Buyout deal any GM has signed.
What, though, if he does get fat-and-sassy? It is rumored around the local media types that just like his "mentor" Soriano, Castro likes his nightlife, and is seen a lot out and about late at night. Hey, now, Alf no longer has to buy all the rounds. Starlin can act like a big boy now, pick up some tabs, pop some Cristal, and all the other things the cool kids talk about. He should be in his own rap video any minute now. It's the oldest story in the book: young and hungry phenom claws his way to fame and fortune; once he gets to the top, he gets all full of himself and turns his back on what got him there in the first place. The fire in the belly goes out; it is written on caveman walls.
Well, here's the good news, folks.
You may not realize this, if you've only been a Cub fan since around the Mark Prior Era. In other words, the Jim Hendry Era. But did you know, that it IS possible for major leaguers to enjoy large comfortable salaries without No-Trade Clauses? No joke - players can be on your team, and when management decides there is some other player or players that may be of more value to us, then management can execute a "trade" without having to have the express legal approval of our player? In fact, did you realize that clubs have been "trading" with each other since 1876? That was WAY before Aramis Ramirez came to town. In fact, when the Chicago Cubs executed their first trade, Ryan Dempster's ancestors were riding redwood logs down the Fraser River on their way to the mill.
So, even if Starlin Castro decides he must always bat third, starts showing up for Spring Training on April 1st and never goes to bed before 4AM ever again, Theo Epstein can execute a "trade" with another team, thus allowing the Cubs to get out from underneath a bad situation. See how cool that is?
I understand that baseball is a game, which all of us believe we would do for per diem money. But when you do it every day for six or seven months at a time, it becomes a job, thus theories on workplace motivators become applicable. Most studies on employees state that money, when presented as pay, is not a motivating factor in employee satisfaction. However, lack of pay, or an employee's perception of it, is proven to be a de-motivator. Fact is, most other teams in the league, at least those that can afford to, are approaching their most prized arbitration-eligibles and signing them to extensions. The Cubs were actually in a must-act mode, because if much more time passed, Castro would be looking around at all the other young stars wondering where HIS deal was, and then you might have seen some serious tanking. So there is no use complaining about the spent money.
Let's hope that he earns it, but if he doesn't, it's not the end of the world, because we can always hit the Reset button. Hendry tried the "make the players comfortable" tack, and it didn't work. We don't know exactly yet what does work, but nobody on Earth is more knowledgeable than the Cubs on what doesn't.