Future Look: Castro and Barney

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The Cubs future will be on display in all the right ways Tuesday in the forms of Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro.

For Castro, the day is expected to bring the signing of a new seven-year, $60 million contract locking him up as a team cornerstone for the Theo Epstein era.

For Barney, the day could bring a National League record-tying event should he play another errorless game.

Barney played his 112th consecutive errorless game Monday in an otherwise disastrous 15-4 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.

The National League record for second basemen is 113 games set in 2010 by David Eckstein of the San Diego Padres.

Cubs manager Dale Sveum already is on record endorsing Barney’s credentials for Gold Glove honors.

Even if he were to come up short of the NL record, Barney has quietly proven he can be part of the positives for a team looking for any silver lining as it moves forward to rebuild.

Barney and Castro may be the best things going for the Cubs future.

Sources confirmed Monday that Castro, 22, could sign a deal as early as Tuesday[today] worth a total of $60 million, including $59 million for seven years with a club option for an eighth year and a $1 million buyout.

The deal is believed to be without no-trade provisions for the two-time All-Star who is in only his third major league season.

And if the adage is true that a team must be strong up the middle to succeed, at least Theo Epstein can count one less worry.

“They’ve done a great job, and yet you still have to realize that Castro is 22 and Barney is figuring out second base [after converting from shortstop]–although he’s figured it out pretty well,” Sveum said.

“Barney is having a Gold Glove season, but he doesn’t shy away from making himself better every day. And Starlin is getting better and understanding about positioning or footwork around a double play.

“They accomplish things over a season, and hopefully the next season is when you start making strides.”

Baseball statistician John Dewan has calculated that Barney has saved more runs from scoring [28 before Monday’s game] than any other National League second baseman. That also ranks among the majors best at any position.

Barney leads in fielding percentage and putouts for second basemen.

Castro leads NL shortstops in assists–but he also leads in errors with two more on Monday raising his total to 21.

“Up the middle” defense also includes catchers, pitchers and center fielders. Behind the plate, rookie Steve Clevenger and developing Wellington Castilo still have to prove if they are elements of the future.

The pitching corps may be the most unsettled part of the formula, and Epstein has made clear that is the main focus for repair.

But center field has been another positive position, with David DeJesus playing well there before prospect Brett Jackson was called up Aug. 5.

“Our center fielders have done a really good job,” Sveum said, Jackson also hitting his fourth homer Monday in a game the Cubs trailed 5-4 through six innings.

Sveum made improved overall defense a point of emphasis for the Cubs this season, and they have responded. A key has been his belief in positioning defenders according to how opposing hitters hit most of the time.

The result is the Cubs ranking ninth in the league in overall defense. “Once the guys started buying into it, things started getting better,” Sveum said.


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