Starlin Castro put up a combined .274/.314/.418 line with 63 doubles and 34 home runs over the last two seasons in Miami, for Marlins clubs that lost a combined 203 games.
It wasn’t always easy for the one-time Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees’ infielder, who was traded to the Fish, to play for a losing club, but he remained focused on what was still within his control.
“It’s really tough sometimes,” Castro acknowledged when he spoke with reporters after his 2-year/$12M deal with the Washington Nationals was announced this past Tuesday. “Really tough.”
“I came from the Cubs ... the first time I played in the playoffs, we get really close, we get to the [NL Championship] Series, and after that I go to the Yankees, and we got close to getting to the World Series. After that I got traded to the Marlins. It’s kind of difficult.
“You get used to competing and winning every day, and getting to play in October, but that’s one of those things that I always put out of my mind that I can’t control.
“If it’s up to me, I’m always going to be on the good teams, but we don’t have the control in that kind of situation.”
When it was up to him, Castro, 29, tested the free agent market, then signed on with a team he said he’d wanted to for a while now.
“I always told my family if I can get in a position to make a decision, it’s going to be the Nationals,” Castro said, and when there was mutual interest, he made it happen.
Playing in the same division for the last two years, Castro got a good idea of what his new organization had to offer, and liked what he saw.
“Young guys, veteran guys, the pitching staff, the coaching staff, I think it’s amazing,” Castro said.
He was also watching closely as the Nationals won it all last season, rallying from a 19-31 start to claim a Wild Card spot and eventually battle their way to a World Series win.
“I see all the games. All the games. I didn’t go out of my house before I saw the last inning. No matter if they were losing or they were winning. It’s really fun to watch, I think — I was really happy to see what they did.”
Castro said he saw something in the Nationals even when they were struggling and some teammates were dismissing Washington’s chances of doing what they eventually did.
“I remember we played a game against [Washington] in Miami and we beat them for a lot of runs,” he recalled. “A lot of people said this team isn’t going nowhere, and I felt really happy — I always tell a lot of guys, ‘Those guys are playing bad right now, but those guys can play. You see at the end of this these guys are going to [be able to] win it all.’ That’s what they did. They started the season okay, and they got bad, and they start to win some games and we go back to D.C. in August they’re two or three games [up] in the Wild Card [race], and I said it’s really amazing how those guys were playing in July and they come back and get the first Wild Card.”
In D.C., Castro will be reunited with Davey Martinez, who was the bench coach in Chicago for a year with the infielder in 2015, and apparently made a strong impression on the then 25-year-old Cub.
“We really had a good relationship with the Cubs,” Castro said, “and after that we see each other, everywhere we see each other, we had a good relationship.”
Now 29, Castro will be joining a team that features a couple young players that the 10-year veteran said he thinks he can help if and when they need it.
“Of course, of course,” he said when asked about potentially mentoring younger players like Juan Soto and Victor Robles.
“I am going to be available,” Castro added. “I’m going to talk to them. I will say how you prepare every day to play, how you focus on the game, that’s the thing that helped me when I was a young kid.
“I came to Chicago, I had all the veteran guys, like Alfonso Soriano, I just [saw] how they prepared, how they go to the weight room, how they go to the field, how they play hard every day, focus every day.
“Things like that helped me a lot and I’m always asking questions. I think I’m going to talk to those guys, and if I see something that can help them to do better, I’m going to say it, no matter what.”