Phillies Sign 2B Luis Castillo
March 21, 2011 Leave a comment
With Chase Utley’s knee not improving any time soon, the Philadelphia Phillies made a decisive move today, signing ex-New York Met second baseman Luis Castillo to a minor league contract (ESPN News Link).
Released last week, with the Mets eating $6 million owed to him this season, Castillo was eager to sign on with a team that was willing to give him immediate playing time. The Phillies provided Castillo with that need now that it’s becoming clear that Utley may miss significant time due to his knee problems. However, the team hasn’t guaranteed Castillo the starting job, stating that he will compete with the likes of Wilson Valdez, Pete Orr, Delwyn Young, Josh Barfield and Michael Martinez.
Castillo, along with left hander Oliver Perez, had become the focal point of failure in the eyes of Mets fans. Last season, Castillo hit .235 and had become a shell of himself defensively. The slap-happy switch hitter had only six extra base hits in 86 games, and lost whatever speed he had, managing only eight stolen bases. By the end of the season, Castillo lost his starting gig to rookie Ruben Tejada and was competing with the likes of Tejada, Brad Emaus, Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner this season to reclaim his spot.
He was hitting .286 this spring before his release, but both Mets manager and general manager had stated the desire to institute an offensive player at the position.
With the Phillies, Castillo enters a situation in which he is still not the odds-on favorite to win the starting gig until Utley is fully healthy. Wilson Valdez, who played a pivotal role on the team’s bench last season, has been on fire all spring, hitting .439. He also provides the team with more options as to where he could play. Valdez has the ability to fill in at shortstop and third base, while Castillo is limited to only second.
Since the Mets are on the hook for all of Castillo’s salary this season, the Phillies are only required to pay Castillo the veteran’s minimum of $400,000. The team views Castillo as a low-risk, high-reward signing for organizational depth.
Tomorrow, we will look at the larger scope of the Chase Utley injury, and the ramifications it may have on the Phillies line-up.