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Yankees Potential Free Agent Target: Starlin Castro

Could the Yankees reunite with an old friend to help fill the void left by Didi Gregorius?

MLB: Miami Marlins at Arizona Diamondbacks Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Few players have experienced twists and turns throughout a career quite like 29-year-old shortstop Starlin Castro. It feels like Castro has been around forever, but he’s theoretically in the prime of his career, and he’s still somehow a dark horse candidate to reach 3,000 hits. Castro was traded to the Yankees in 2015 for Adam Warren and then traded to the Marlins in the Giancarlo Stanton deal. Now, after two seasons in Miami, Castro’s a free agent who could be available for a reasonable price as a depth piece. If Castro wants to play for a contender, might he accept a one-year deal with the Yankees and help fill the void left by Didi Gregorius?

While Castro is one of just 35 players ever with 1,600 hits before turning 30, that’s more of a testament to consistency and overall volume of at-bats than his ability. Castro’s been a solid MLB player since he was 20, but he’s never posted a single season WAR above 3.1 and his highest wRC+ was 117 in 2014 with the Cubs.

Castro did prove that he can succeed in the Bronx, as he posted a .300/.338/.454 slash line over 112 games in 2017 before he was dealt to Miami. That 112 games marks the fewest games Castro’s played in a season since entering the league in 2010, proving his durability at the middle-infield positions. In fact, Castro played all 162 games last year for Miami, marking the seventh time he’s played at least 151 games in a season.

It’s hard to imagine the Yankees bringing on Castro for more than a one-year deal, but a player that hit 22 home runs, drove in 86 runs, and posted fine defensive metrics could warrant a multi-year deal in free agency. However, Castro’s counting stats have always appeared more impressive than the underlying metrics. In 2019, he recorded a 91 wRC+ and a .307 wOBA, his lowest since 2015.

The silver lining for Castro’s two losing seasons in Miami was his defensive improvement, primarily as a second baseman. After posting a second base UZR of -4.1 in 2016 and -5.9 UZR in 2017, Castro improved to a 0.5 rating in 2018 and a 0.4 figur in 2019, according to FanGraphs. Those aren’t standout defensive numbers, but average defense at second base and some flexibility to play shortstop and third base in a pinch could make Castro a valuable player on a contending team.

Where Castro really shines is at the plate against left-handed pitching. He owns a career .297/.344/.434 slash line against lefties, and his splits were even more dramatic last season. Castro slashed .323/.351/.530 against lefties and .252/.283/.403 against righties. With Gleyber Torres, D.J. LeMahieu, and Gio Urshela set to start around the infield in 2020, the Yankees probably won’t have any need for an infielder that specializes against lefties, but additional depth with a proven track record of success at the big league level is something the Yankees could look into acquiring at the right price.

Castro seemed to enjoy his time with the Yankees, and he really came into his own in 2017 before the offseason trade, so a reunion doesn’t seem like a complete impossibility at this point. Count it as unlikely, but the Yankees could do far worse than Castro in terms of versatile backup infielders.