Saturday, March 19, 2011

Luis Castillo, Mr. Met

Luis Castillo: The Mets will pay him $6 million to go away.
The Mets on Friday released original piranha Luis Castillo. They did so even though the veteran second baseman is owed $6 million for the 2011 season and even though they don't have a clearly better alternative for the job.

Read between the lines, and Sandy Alderson, the Mets' general manager, essentially admits it's a PR move:

"I don't think there's any question there's some linkage between his situation and a perception of the Mets that has existed to this point, and that's something that was taken into account. At some point, you have to make an organizational decision that goes beyond just an ability to play or not play. Those things are relevant, and you try not to make them so controlling that it dictates the final decision under any circumstances, but realistically, it's a factor."

Fairly or not, Castillo had become a walking symbol of some the worst aspects of the Omar Minaya regime in Queens. Not all of them, because you can't be simultaneously a prospect rushed haphazardly up the organizational ladder and an overpaid, ineffective veteran, but enough so that Mets fans won't miss him.

A few more disjointed thoughts about Castillo:

His future
A blog commenter wondered Friday if the Twins might pick him up. I don't see that happening; been there, done that. The Twins right now are about establishing multi-year solutions to their roster questions, not about one-year stopgaps. Castillo's 35. He may be free, but he isn't cheap; the price of adding him is that of not giving a younger player a clear shot.

I don't know that he's going to find a landing place. There are teams with holes at second base, but the perception on Castillo is that he's in sharp decline, and he doesn't have the arm to be a useful utility infielder.

The trades
The Twins got him from the Florida Marlins after the 2005 seasons when the Fish went on one of their periodic fire sales.The price was a pair of minor league pitchers, Travis Bowyer and Scott Tyler.  Neither succeeded in the majors; Tyler topped out at Double A, and Bowyer, if I recall correctly, got hurt during spring training 2006; at any rate, he last threw a regular season pitch in 2005.

Castillo was a significant contributor to the Twins' marvelous 2006 run, but he showed signs of decline in 2007 and was approaching free agency; Terry Ryan, then the Minnesota general manager, traded him to the Mets on deadline day and took some criticism from Torii Hunter and Johan Santana for doing so.

This is probably reading too much into it, but I wonder if Santana's decision to accept the Mets as a trade destination was at all linked to his perception that the Castillo trade illustrated a deeper commitment to winning in Queens. If so, it would be another example of why players make lousy GMs. (In truth, I believe Santana's decision was about money.)

The Twins got Drew Butera, currently their backup catcher, and outfielder Dustin Martin in the deal; Martin has hit in the .250s in his two Triple A seasons and does not appear to be a threat to dislodge anybody in the major league outfield.

The broadcaster
The Twins replaced Castillo on the roster in 2007 with Alexi Casilla. The two names are similar enough to give Dan Gladden fits; he's spent much of the past four seasons calling Casilla "Castillo."

Earlier this week, the Twins and Mets played an exhibition and Castillo was in the New York lineup. Sure enough, Gladden repeatedly called him "Casilla."

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