On Tuesday, news broke by SB Nation's own Chris Cotillo that the Astros approached Jason Castro about an extension before the 2014 season. Castro turned them down, despite the value of the deal being $10 million for last year and this one.
The deal also allegedly included two options that could have brought its value up to $25 million for four years. Castro earned $2.45 million in 2014 and is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $3.9 million next season. That means Castro lost about $3.65 million by turning down the extension over two years.
Yet, Castro may have earned more by assuring that he'd go to free agency sooner. Look at Russell Martin, a player who struggled to hit but proved to be an invaluable defensive presence for the Pirates. Martin, after leaving the Dodgers in 2010, earned $4 million and $7.5 million in his final two arbitration seasons.
Despite bad offensive seasons with the Yankees, Martin still signed for $17 million with the Pirates before his mega-deal with Toronto this offseason. If Castro followed that path and we assume some inflation in the market after next year, he could expect to earn $20 million on a two-year deal at the low end of the market.
But, with a bounce-back season or two, Castro could easily earn back that $3.6 million and more.
For the Astros, we've talked about how interest in Castro could heat up as the catching market gets scarce. If you're the Astros, what decision do you make? Do you up your offer to Castro? Say, a four- or five-year deal for closer to $40 million?
Or, do you deal him now, knowing that he could leave for greener contracts once his arbitration years are up? What sort of return should the Astros get for him? If they landed a package like the Jed Lowrie one (two MLB-ready talents, one prospect), would it be worth giving up on his offensive potential?
Castro has made huge strides in the past two seasons defensively. He's worked his way into being a top 10 receiver behind the plate. He has 20-homer potential at a position where power is scarce. He's also a great clubhouse guy by all accounts and could be a calming influence on the young pitchers who will be coming through the system soon.
How much is that worth?
Though Castro won't be a free agent for two more seasons, the extend-or-trade debate should be going on now. The longer they go, the more expensive he becomes. Yet, if its clear the Astros won't keep him, how much will he net in a trade?
That's the question I'm sure Houston is pondering this offseason. Where on the sliding scale of value is Castro?