March 18, 2011
Life After Luis Castillo
Getting flushed from Flushing might seem like no easy matter, not when price was an object, not when the rules require the employment of some sort of ninth player somewhere on the field, and not when convention demands that it involve some warm body standing between the shortstop and the first baseman. But none of that could spare Luis Castillo the axe. With the daintiness of Anne Boleyn on the block, the Mets' second baseman was prepped, placed, and whacked, with almost inevitable celebrations.
It was interesting that Sandy Alderson's comments on the matter seemed to indicate this was as much a surrender to market pressure than it did with an evaluation of Castillo's ability to contribute. Not market pressure in terms of anything related to supply and demand, but market pressure in the form of New Yorkers who, if they felt anything beyond malaise for the Mets, had come to positively loathe Castillo. That there is the (ideally) transient suggestion that they'll employ Luis Hernandez might reflect the possibility that the Mets have hopefully not yet found their Opening Day second baseman.
The question of perception with Castillo, however, is also something worth applying to evaluating his actual performance doing stuff involving, you know, baseball, not whether or not people thought he was making too much money, or whether he was a bad defensive player. At the plate, his True Average in his three full seasons with the Mets zig-zagged from an adequate .261 in 2008 to a good .281 in his healthy 2009 campaign, dropping to .246 in his injury-abbreviated 2010. Paradoxically, 2010 was his best season in the field, per Colin Wyers' new FRAA:
PAA is Plays Above Average, RAA is Runs, and the MOE for each is the Margin of Error, or basically the range to the positive and negative that you might find him at. Since both 2008 and 2010 were injury-shortened seasons, the best sample's 2009, and that season rates among the worst seasons delivered by any second baseman in the last three years. The only ones among full-time players that rated below it were Neil Walker, Chone Figgins, and Howie Kendrick in 2010, and Brian Roberts in 2009.
As much as any single season is supposed to sum up a player's contributions, that one season of full-tiime play is what speaks to the legion of Castillo critics. Add in Castillo's compensation--a matter of basic envy--plus the injuries, the little things like tactlessly skipping a team visit to Walter Reed Hospital, or being called out for bad body language and "visible sullenness" by Terry Collins, and you wind up with a guy with a target painted on his back, one to which he'd contributed several brush strokes.
Going forward, the Mets really have no out-and-out good choices, but they do have acceptable ones, assuming that they accept the attendant risks for any of the non-Hernandezes:
With Murphy, the question is whether he could handle the position, which seems a bit dubious given that he started his career getting moved towards the corners and positions of less and less defensive responsibilities. Hernandez can't and won't hit, ever, but he might be an adequate defensive replacement for Murphy if they work up the nerve to go that route and risk a repeat of the Castillo experience in the field. But perhaps the best, albeit middling solution for their up-the-middle problem position is Emaus, the Rule 5 pick from the Blue Jays. Not that he'll be the next Dan Uggla, but there's nothing wrong with exploiting free talent now that they're free of the bane of so many Big Apple residents.