Yesterday the Cubs signed Ben Zobrist and traded Starlin Castro to the Yankees for Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan. Although Warren is a good asset to have in any bullpen, I think the Yankees got the better end of this deal, and I think the Cubs will end up missing Castro at second base. Zobrist is 34, Castro is 25, and while both seem to have a similar declining WAR trend line over the past few years, Castro’s defensive WAR is on the rise while Zobrist’s is plummeting.
Zobrist will probably be a platoon player at second with Javier Baez, and in the outfield with Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler. He can also play third anytime Kris Bryant needs a rest. But the Yankees now have an extremely strong up-the-middle with Gregorius and Castro, both of whom are in their mid twenties.
Zobrist’s deal ends up being around $14M per year. Castro is owed around $40M over the last 4 years of his contract (not including the $16M team option in his final year that has a $1M buyout). If you ask me, I’d rather pay $10M per year to a younger, better fielding second baseman, than $14M to an older second baseman whose defense is quickly declining. No question that Zobrist can hit; his offensive WAR numbers are on a much slower decline. But he needs to be able to hold up his end of the bargain on defense to make him a truly valuable National League player. Zobrist does have history with Joe Maddon; both of his 8+ WAR years came under Maddon’s reign in Tampa. And, Zobrist is an Illinois native who might get an extra boost playing close to home.
- I still give the Yankees a A- grade on this trade.
- I give the Cubs a B grade on these moves, but that could jump to a B+ if Adam Warren continues to perform at least at his career 7.6 K/9 and 3.39 ERA. His DraftKings fantasy (below – courtesy of baseball-reference.com) numbers prove he has the ability to perform well above average, but not on a consistent enough basis.