(Starlin Castro in action for the Cubs last season – David Pokress / Sportsday Wire)
The Yankees made their biggest move so far in the offseason, as they acquired infielder Starlin Castro from the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night in exchange for right-handed pitcher Adam Warren and a player to be named later.
What made this deal possible was the fact that the Cubs signed free agent Ben Zobrist to a four-year, $56-million contract on Tuesday night, nearly simultaneously.
Zobrist will likely play most of his time at second base for Chicago, which made Castro expendable and gave the Yankees some leverage in trade negotiations.
The Yankees probably figured that Chicago would finally move Castro, who has been on the trade block for a couple years, and they would not have to part with any of their three prized prospects, first baseman Greg Bird, pitcher Luis Severino, or catcher Gary Sanchez, to land him.
It took two season, but the Yankees finally found their successor for Robinson Cano, who departed for Seattle after the 2013 season.
The Yankees addressed perhaps their biggest need, which was second base, with this trade. Second base was a weak spot last season, as Stephen Drew hit just .201 with 17 home runs and 44 RBI. They were prepared to enter 2016 with Dustin Ackley and Rob Refsnyder anchoring the position.
Warren was a very reliable pitcher for the Yankees, as he spent time in the bullpen and starting rotation in four years with the Yankees. He never would have been considered more than a fourth starter in the Yankees rotation, which the flip side, is what Chicago needed to add to their rotation, as they had very little depth past Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta. They have already signed John Lackey this offseason to be the third starter in their rotation.
The 25-year old Castro hit .265, with 145 hits in 547 at-bats; 11 home runs, 69 RBI, 52 runs scored, 23 doubles in 151 games with the Cubs in 2015. Over his final 45 games of the season, beginning on August 13, he hit .358 (48-for-134) with 12 doubles, 6HR and 23RBI. His .369 (31-for-84) batting average in September and October led the National League (minimum 50 plate appearances).
Castro can join the heart of the Yankees’ order, as he has an explosive bat and he will have more protection hitting around Alex Rodriguez, Brian McCann, and Mark Teixeira, than he did for most of his career with the Cubs.
With Castro at second base, Didi Gregorious, who is also 25 years old, at shortstop; and 23-year-old Greg Bird as the first baseman of the future, the Yankees have the makings of a nucleus that could anchor the infield for the next ten to 15 years.
The Dominican Republic native has spent the majority of his career at shortstop, posting a .963 fielding percentage (138E / 3,753TC) in 844 games (836 starts) at the position. He has also posted a .957 fielding percentage (6E / 138TC) in 38 career games (29GS) at second base, having made his first Major League appearance there on August 11, 2015.
Castro was originally signed by the Cubs as a non-drafted free agent on October 25, 2006. In 891 games over six Major League seasons from 2010-15 — all with Chicago-NL — he has batted .281 (991-for-3,524) with 391R, 186 doubles, 31 triples, 62HR and 363RBI. On August 28, 2012, he signed a seven-year contract with the Cubs through 2019, including a club option for the 2020 season.
Warren, 28, went 7-7 with a 3.29 ERA (131 innings pitched, 48 earned runs) and 104K in 43 games (17 starts) with the Yankees in 2015, setting career highs in wins, games started, innings pitched and strikeouts. He was one of just two pitchers in the Majors to make at least 15 starts and 20 relief appearances in 2015, joining the Twins’ Trevor May (16 starts, 32 relief appearances). He also became the first Yankee to reach those totals in the same season since Ramiro Mendoza in 1997 (15GS, 24 relief appearances). Warren was originally selected by the Yankees in the fourth round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft and went 13-15 with five saves, a 3.39 ERA (289.1IP, 109ER) and 245K in 147 games (20 starts) over parts of four Major League seasons (2012-15) with the club.
The Yankees’ 40-man roster remains at 39.