By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The playing time of three-time All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro could be impacted for the the second time in a month following Cubs manager Joe Maddon’s new second base rotation.
On Aug. 6, Maddon benched Castro and made rookie Addison Russell his new everyday shortstop. That made the 25-year-old Castro a part-time and eventually platoon second baseman with Chris Coghlan. That has now all changed again with infielder Tommy La Stella coming off the disabled list and the Sept. 1 callup of Javier Baez.
Baez will be looked at as a possible third baseman if he can hit consistently, and he was off to a good start Friday afternoon with three hits, including a homer, against the Diamondbacks with the game in the eighth inning. That defensive rotation could find usual third baseman Kris Bryant in right field, with Baez at third and La Stella at second base against right-handed pitching — depending on the way Maddon sees it and who’s hot. All of that and Castro’s problems defensively at second base point to less playing time for him.
Castro will still start against left-handed pitchers, Maddon said, but his defense will go a long way to determining his playing time the rest of the season in the middle infield.
“You will see Starlin against the lefty,” Maddon said, referencing Saturday’s matchup against Arizona southpaw Robbie Ray. “The depth chart around second base is trying to get the best matchup for that pitcher that night. You saw Javy play second base the other night and how easily he does that, how easy he makes picking the ball up. Right now, I am really into defense a lot too. I really feel good about his defense. You might see him at third too.”
Maddon stayed true to his pregame words Friday, moving Baez to third base in the sixth inning of the game.
As for Castro, the consensus is this will be his last year on the Cubs. With four years left on his contract that runs through 2019 and has a team option for 2020, he’s still owed around $38 million. That’s way too pricey for a bench player. Numerous teams have inquired about Castro, with significant interest from one National league club, according to industry sources.
“This is a different time for a lot of our guys,” Maddon said. “We are in September, we have a real solid chance of going to the playoffs. It’s not about anybody right now. It’s about the Cubs. That is what our guys have to get used to.”
At this point of the month, it’s too early to speculate about which Cubs will be on the 25-man postseason roster. One thing is certain, though.
A onetime face of the franchise alongside Anthony Rizzo, Castro is no longer viewed in the same way.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.