Turns out, Starlin Castro is the last player the Cubs could afford to get injured.
Not that the Cubs are going to win anything this season. In fact, they might not win 70 games. This team is being built to stink again, to trade anyone who has a good three months and to get a high draft pick.
So, this isn’t like Miguel Cabrera getting hurt. But Castro’s strained hamstring turns out to be hamstringing the Cubs in some ways.
Castro is the Cubs’ biggest disappointment, an attention-addled failing hitter. Javier Baez is the Cubs’ biggest prospect, a ferocious-swinging shortstop.
Castro is the shortstop whom former manager Bobby Valentine called out on ESPN for going on walkabout in the middle of an inning. Castro is the hitter whose batting average has plummeted more than 60 points in two seasons because he cannot learn to take pitches the way the Cubs demand.
Baez is the prospect who has become the Next Big Thing to the point where Baseball Prospectus called him a potential “role 8 player at the major-league level,’’ which is as good as it gets --- in the conversation as the best player in the game.
You can read the entire scouting report on all the Cubs prospects here, but the point is it makes you dream of what the cubs have coming and makes you want them to bring it to you now.
Now, do you hear me?
So, when Castro hurt his hamstring Sunday and was projected to be out about a week or 10 days, everybody lit up at the idea of seeing Baez regularly.
Not so fast, Cubs fans. You’ll get a lot of Darwin Barney and Emilio Bonifacio and like it.
That’s the way the Cubs handled shortstop the first couple days after Castro’s injury, and that’s the way it apparently will continue. No matter how much crap Theo Epstein’s Cubs have given their fans, they won’t rush their kids even through spring training.
That’s some disciplined plan, huh?
But it makes sense. Epstein’s Cubs have refused to rush players to the majors for a lot of good reasons.
One, they don’t want to start the arbitration clock, thus maintaining control of good, maybe great, young players for the maximum number of years.
Two, the Cubs don’t want to kill their potential. They want to give their kids the best chance to star in the majors once they get there.
Three, they want to make the Cubs contenders annually, which can’t happen without disciplined development procedures.
Appearing on the “Mac & Spiegs Show’’ on WSCR-AM 670 on Tuesday, Epstein underscored his insistence on sticking to the plan to the point of interrupting his questioner.
Dan McNeil offered a hypothetical regarding Castro’s injury and Baez’s coming north by telling Epstein, “You know your fans want a cookie with one of these kids.’’
Before the thought was completed, Epstein was shaking his head and starting in.
“We’re cooking the whole meal,’’ Epstein said. “We want to give them the whole meal. The only way to make fans happy is to give them pennant races and October baseball on an annual basis.’’
Nothing will change that plan, Epstein reiterated, especially the notion that they would promote a kid just to show off a “shiny new toy’’ as a boast to the player development.
Which wouldn’t be proper player development, when you think about it, and that again is Epstein’s point.
There’s no value is doing that, just as there’s no value to what the Cubs are putting in major-league uniforms for the third straight season. But that’s part of Epstein’s scorched Cub policy.
There are some of us who want the Cubs to trade Castro, and I think they will when Baez conquers the minors and stops making 44 errors a year.
Cubs pitchers would hate the 44 errors a year, but I don’t think Cubs fans would mind. I think they just want to see if the future has a future.
Cubs fans are being sold hope, like always. Difference is, every scouting outlet has rocketed the Cubs’ hopes to the top of their lists. But hold on. Wait. Not now. Not for a while perhaps.
That just makes it worse for Cubs fans. Something always does.Copyright © 2015, RedEye