Signed by the Chicago Cubs as an amateur free agent in 2006, and then traded to the New York Yankees in 2015, before he was dealt to the Miami Marlins in 2017, Starlin Castro waited for the opportunity to choose where he played again, and he finally got it this winter, and he signed on with the Washington Nationals.
The thinking behind the decision to take a 2-year/$12M deal to play for the defending World Series champions?
“I’ve been really a fan of Washington since I saw [Alfonso] Soriano play over there,” Castro told reporters in a conference call after his contract with the Nats was official, referring to the one year Soriano played in D.C. in ‘06.
A reunion with his former bench coach in Chicago was another draw when it came time to decide on a new home this winter.
“I really know Davey Martinez,” Castro said. “I played with him with the Cubs and we’re really tight. And I think that’s a really good organization that I saw play for my two years in Miami, and I always told my family if I can get in a position to make a decision, it’s going to be the Nationals.”
Castro and Martinez spent just one season together on the North Side of Chicago, but the bench coach-turned-manager apparently made a strong impression on the infielder.
“The communication that he had with the players, I always told him, ‘You’re going to be a good manager,” the 29-year-old, 10-year veteran said of the current Nationals’ skipper.
“For me, as a player, that’s one of the type of things that we’re looking for. We have a guy that can control the whole team, [and know] how to communicate, communicate with the players, let you know what’s going on, let you know your role, what you’re going to be.”
“That’s one of the things that he did all the time,” Castro added. “He’s with Joe Maddon over there, and he’s the guy that would go find the player and let him know, ‘You’re going to play this position tomorrow. You’re going to be in the lineup.’
“I think for me, and I know a lot of guys in the same place, if we have a manager who can communicate with the players, I think it’s easier for you to get to the field every day and give 100% for a guy that trusts you.”
As soon as he signed on in D.C., Castro said, Martinez reached out to him to welcome him to the Nationals.
“After I signed that’s the first guy who called me,” Castro explained. “We really had a good relationship with the Cubs and after that ... everywhere we see each other, we had a good relationship.”
Now that relationship will continue in the nation’s capital.
Castro was reportedly signed to play second base, where he’s played 564 games in his career.
If he’s asked to play third base, however, he said he’d be comfortable there too, in spite of the fact that he’s only played 45 games there in his career, when he was asked to move to the spot last season in Miami.
“I just talked with [Tim Wallach], our bench coach [in Miami], [who] used to play a lot [at third] and he just told me this is a reactive position,” Castro recalled.
“You just get ready and get ready to react. It’s not the same thing as second base. Second base you’ve got plenty of time to move side-to-side.
“At third base, you’ve got to get the ball quickly. It’s a reaction position ... the more games I played there I just started to feel more comfortable.”
“I think I can play — after I played shortstop and moved to second with the Cubs, I think that’s one of the things that I realized,” he continued.
“Playing second, learning a little bit there, after that last year in Miami, I played third, like not even practiced before. I never played third before, not even in the minor leagues. I did pretty well. I felt pretty good. It’s kind of scary the first two games, and then I just started to feel comfortable out there. I feel really comfortable at second base, but I know I can play third too.”
Wherever he ends up playing, Castro will likely be pencilled into the lineup on a regular basis, coming off a 162-game season in 2019, his second career 162-game campaign.
He’s played over 150 games in seven of his 10 big league campaigns, so the versatile and durable infielder is going to on the field if he’s healthy.
“That’s one of the things that I always do,” Castro said, “I just come to the field every day ready to play.
“If you are in the lineup or if you’re not in the lineup, and that’s always prepare.”
“I’m always prepared. I never quit. I just go out there every day to do my best. No matter how hot it is, no matter if you have success that game, if you don’t have success in that game, you are going to see that same guy in the next day ready to play another game and do better than they did the day before.”