Call it a “rebuild” or a “retooling,” Starlin Castro has been a part of it.
And twice Starlin Castro has been traded on the cusp of ultimate success.
But if you watched Castro go about his business in his first spring with the Marlins, you wouldn’t have noticed any outward bitterness from the four-time All-Star second baseman.
“I think the attitude with which he’s approached this spring training has been very good for all of us,” Marlins infielder Miguel Rojas said. “Despite everything that was said about him wanting to leave, he’s shown he wants to be here and wants to make this another good chapter for his career. He brings a good attitude to the field every day and that’s big for me and for all of the young guys to have as an example.”
Castro, a four-time All-Star during tenures with the Cubs and Yankees, was traded from the latter this December when the Marlins sent National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton to New York, also obtaining prospects Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers in the deal.
The prospect of going through another, and perhaps longer, franchise reshaping process as he did during his first years in Chicago, initially was upsetting to Castro, who led the National League in hits in 2011.
But as the Marlins prepare to open the 2018 season Thursday against his original club, Castro is embracing his new role as a mentor among a predominately inexperienced roster.
“I’ve been part of this before,” Castro said. “We started with a lot of young guys in Chicago and everybody saw how in two or three years we became a World Series team. I see a lot of talent here and a lot of guys that can play.”
Before the Marlins faced the Yankees for the first time in spring training on March 11th, Castro treated former teammates Gary Sanchez, Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres and Estevan Florial to dinner in the Jupiter area.
He was not happy about being traded initially, and not sure if he would fit into the Marlins’ plans. But since then, Castro, who turned 28 on Saturday, has accepted his role with the young Marlins and brought a veteran presence in the clubhouse.
Rojas said he and Castro also went to dinner with Martin Prado and several of the Marlins prospects during the spring and have spent time off the field in order to get to know each other.
“I tried to get to know everybody first,” Castro said. “As soon as I got here everybody looked happy and everybody looked good. It’s going to be about all nine guys in the lineup. Everybody has to do their job. We’re going to fight to the end.”
The Cubs traded Castro to the Yankees after the 2015 season. The following year, they won the World Series.
And while not a full-on rebuild in 2016, Castro was there when the Yankees began to form the nucleus that came within one game of winning the American League pennant a year ago.
The Yankees sent Castro, who is set to make $10 million this year and $11 million next season with a $16 million club option for 2020, to the Marlins in order to acquire Stanton on the cusp of what could be another World Series run this year in the Bronx.
“It was kind of tough in the beginning,” Castro said. “It was pretty tough for me. When I got traded, it was really sad for me, but after that, that’s one of the things we can’t control. I can’t control those trades. I know it’s a business. We’re here today. Tomorrow, we don’t know where we are going to be.”
Castro’s presence in the lineup, likely in the No. 3 spot, is something manager Don Mattingly loves having — especially after the departure of three of the team’s best hitters in Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich.
Despite a hamstring injury in late July that Castro said he’s fully recovered from, he earned his fourth All-Star nod in 2017, playing in 112 games and hitting .300 with 16 homers and 63 RBI in 443 at-bats.
Castro figures to provide valuable experience to the Marlins’ infield, especially early in the season while veteran third baseman Martin Prado recovers from knee surgery and young shortstop JT Riddle rehabs from shoulder surgery.
“I’ve watched this cat since he was a kid coming up with the Cubs,” Mattingly said. “When you talk about him in our lineup, I get excited because I know he can hit. I know how good he is. And he’s still, what? 28 years old? So he’s a guy I’m excited to see and excited to see how much better he gets.”