Castro deal fits the Epstein mold

CHICAGO -- At first glance, the Starlin Castro deal may look like just another young ballplayer becoming rich at age 22. But it’s more than that.

The fact of the matter is Cubs executivesTheo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are making a policy statement for now and the future as to how contracts and developing stars will be approached in the future.

Although Castro is set for life with a $60 million contract, the Cubs got everything they wanted in this deal to set a payroll structure for the future. First and foremost, the Cubs are looking at paying a potential star of the future maybe a third of what he would be worth by industry standards on the open market in 2017-18 -19. Castro will be pulling in $10 million in the final year of the deal, which will be small potatoes for a superstar.

The model for signing young players before they where full-blown stars was first developed by Cleveland GM John Hart in the early 1990s. Hart tried to project what type of players Kenny Lofton, Jim Thome and Albert Belle would mature into before they became arbitration eligible. Hart offered long-term contracts at a huge discount for the owners of the team, allowing him payroll flexibility for years to come. This set in motion a mini dynasty that lasted into the early part of this millennium for the small-market Indian franchise.

Epstein and Hoyer will be sure to use this same type of plan with Anthony Rizzo, Brett Jackson and any other young quality players that come through the Cub system.

“Hey you didn’t ask me about my new $3 million dollar deal,” Rizzo kidded after the Castro contract announcement on Tuesday. “I guess if you work hard and accomplish some things, you will be rewarded around here.”

That is precisely the message the Cubs’ top brass is trying to implant and get across to potential star players like Rizzo.

While young players will be rewarded for their production, the Cubs will look to make deals that establish contract flexibility. Epstein has never given no-trade language in any long-term contract he has negotiated, including the Castro deal. That mantra allowed the Red Sox to make last week’s blockbuster trade with The Dodgers 10 months after Epstein had left Boston for the Chicago.

Epstein and Hoyer have had their share of long-term deals that didn’t work out. Their initial approach to long-term contracts here with the Cubs may help minimize mistakes that had been made by many GM’s throughout the game in the past.