Despite the attraction to Starlin Castro, it would be wise for the New York Yankees to avoid the free-agent infielder this winter.
Based on the significant amount of injuries the New York Yankees endured this past season, continuing to add to their depth for next season would make a lot of sense.
Heading into next season, rising superstar Gleyber Torres and utility infielder DJ LeMahieu are expected to start up the middle for the Yankees. Although, there is a lack of quality and reliable depth behind Torres and LeMahieu.
With the departure of Didi Gregorius, Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada are the only viable options to serve as backup infielders during the 2020 season. While both players showed flashes of potential this past season, they aren’t individually ready to take that next step in their respective careers just yet.
So, that means Brian Cashman may need to add a veteran to his infield before the conclusion of this offseason. Earlier this winter, the Yankees were reportedly interested in New York native Joe Panik. But, nothing has materialized with the defensive-first infielder as of yet.
Since Cashman and the Yankees are seeking a durable and reliable veteran infielder, most New Yorkers have been wondering about a potential reunion with former-Yankee Starlin Castro. The 29-year-old has spent each of the last two seasons with the Marlins.
During this past season, Castro played in all 162 games and recorded 31 doubles, 22 home runs, 86 RBI, .165 ISO, .293 BABIP, 91 wRC+, 1.3 fWAR along with a slashing line of .270/.300/.436/.736 as well. Despite his durability, Castro was ultimately a below-average hitter during the 2019 season.
Despite sitting tied for seventh in RBI in 2019, Castro’s 91 wRC+ ranked 14th among qualified second basemen in the league. The right-hander’s 1.3 fWAR was also the 15th-best in that category of players.
In addition, Castro generated a measly .305 wOBA in 2019, which was his worst since the 2015 season. After producing a career-high 7.4% walk rate and a 0.39 BB/K rate in 2018, Castro struggled to replicate those results during this past season, by producing just a 4.1% walk rate along with a 0.25 BB/K rate.
Based on Castro’s 2019 performance, the Yankees would be much better off from a platoon of Wade and Estrada over the veteran infielder.
During this past season, Wade spent 43 games in the majors and created a trio of doubles, two home runs, eleven RBI, .117 ISO, .328 BABIP, 10.2% walk rate, 25.9% strikeout rate, 88 wRC+, 0.3 fWAR and a hitting line of .245/.330/.362/.692 through 94 at-bats.
As for Estrada, the 23-year-old played just 35 games and recorded three doubles, three home runs, 12 RBI, .188 ISO, .283 BABIP, 4.3% walk rate, 21.7% strikeout rate, 91 wRC+, 0.2 fWAR, along with a slashing line of .250/.294/.438/.732 over 64 at-bats.
Based on the numbers above, Castro would slightly provide more power for the Yankees in 2020 compared to a platoon of Wade and Estrada. Although, Wade (who’s the better fielder of the duo), was able to save more runs in fewer innings at second base than Castro during this past season.
During his short time in the majors, Wade generated a +3 DRS, 0.3 UZR and a 1.0 UZR/150 through 112 innings at second base in 2019. In comparison, Castro played 1012.2 innings at second base for Miami and produced a -2 DRS, 0.4 UZR along with a 0.8 UZR/150.
If Wade was able to play more than just 112 innings this past season, the 25-year-old would have likely recorded far better defensive results than Castro in 2019. Both Wade and Estrada are also capable of playing in the outfield along with second, third and shortstop as well. So, they would provide the Yankees with more flexibility within their lineup compared to Castro, who can play just second, short and third base.
By themselves, neither Wade or Estrada would be able to out-perform Castro’s value next season. But, their numbers combined would likely supersede the soon-to-be 30-year-old’s production next season.
Both Wade and Estrada aren’t even eligible for arbitration this winter. Meaning, their salaries for the 2020 season will likely total to just over $1 million combined. This past season with the Marlins, Castro made $8.5 million and is reportedly seeking somewhere around that amount per season over a multi-year contract.
Based on his age and production from this past season, Castro certainly isn’t worth overpaying for this offseason. Ideally, the Yankees would probably prefer to have a fourth outfielder on their roster next season. Since both Wade and Estrada can be positioned in the outfield, the Yankees don’t exactly need to add another outfielder this winter.
If Cashman and the Yankees aren’t sold on either Wade or Estrada, they could sign a cheaper veteran infielder like Panik, who would cost significantly less than Castro.
With Torres and LeMahieu posied to control the middle of the infield next season, the Yankees don’t need to be spending a lot of money for just a backup middle infielder. Since they already have Wade and Estrada, there’s no immediate fit for the former-Yankee.