The Nationals are in agreement on a two-year, $12 million deal with veteran second baseman Starlin Castro, as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal was the first to report on Friday afternoon. NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas was the first to report the term, while ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported the financial info:
Free-agent infielder Starlin Castro in agreement with #Nationals, pending physical, sources tell The Athletic. Move would not take them out of Donaldson sweepstakes. Plan is for Castro to play second base.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 3, 2020
I can confirm the Nationals have a two-year deal with infielder Starlin Castro. Expected to play second base. Donaldson still in the mix. @Ken_Rosenthal was first to report the deal.— Todd Dybas (@Todd_Dybas) January 3, 2020
Second baseman Starlin Castro is in agreement with the Washington Nationals on a two-year, $12 million contract, pending a physical, a source familiar with the deal tells ESPN. @Ken_Rosenthal was first with the agreement.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 3, 2020
The Nationals have not re-signed veterans Asdrubal Cabrera or Brian Dozier, so Castro helps fill the void created by their presumed departures. World Series hero Howie Kendrick, who re-signed with the defending champs earlier this offseason, could also be an option at second, but as things stand now he’s the team’s projected starting first baseman, as incumbents Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Adams have yet to be re-signed.
Castro, who broke into the majors at 20 years old and was projected to be a superstar for years to come, is perhaps the most surprising four-time All-Star in baseball, though it’s worth noting that he represented a trio of rebuilding Cubs teams that didn’t have many other intriguing All-Star candidates. He’s posted an OPS below .700 just twice in 10 years and has had double-digit homers for nine straight seasons, but judging by Baseball Reference’s OPS+, he’s been a slightly below-average offensive contributor for his career, posting a .280/.319/.414 slash line that’s good for a 98 OPS+, two points below average. While he established career highs in homers (22) and RBI (86) in 2019, his offensive output was otherwise rather consistent with his career numbers — he hit .270/.300/.436 over 676 plate appearances.
Castro, who was exclusively a shortstop for the first five seasons of his major-league career before trading positions with Addison Russell midway through the 2015 season and moving to second base, had largely been restricted to second in recent seasons. He did begin to establish some versatility again in 2019, though, playing in 45 games (42 starts) at third base and three games (two starts) at shortstop for the Marlins. That flexibility could be valuable if the Nationals aren’t able to win the bidding war for highly-coveted free-agent target Josh Donaldson and need to take more of a patchwork approach at third base in 2020.