Mentioning Luis Castillo’s place on the 2011 Mets is the quickest path to the fan base’s ire. Castillo is in the final leg of his contract and will make $6 million this season regardless of his location. Such a predicament leaves the Mets entrenched in the classic scenario involving sunk costs within the dynamic of a 25-man roster. It seems like the easiest out is also the best solution.
Castillo, 35, is coming off a season in which his TAv finished 20 points below the league-average mark for a second baseman. He failed to add enough value in the field and on the basepaths to finish above replacement level and effectively drove the sum of his WARP over the last three seasons down to 0.8. Sandy Alderson spent his winter adding numerous second base options (eight of the 13 infielders on the Mets’ 40-man roster play up the middle). These alternatives include Rule 5 selection Brad Emaus and Chin-lung Hu, neither of whom can be demoted without passing through waivers—or, in Emaus’ case, being offered back to his original team.
Castillo’s potential to make the Mets better is limited. The only conceivable upside is that he will play well enough early on to earn a spot on another team’s roster later in the season—similar to Cristian Guzman last season. Even without price tag consideration, Castillo does not appear to be the Mets’ best choice at the keystone. PECOTA does not see Castillo bouncing back and actually pegs him to finish below replacement level again. Meanwhile, PECOTA is high on the alternatives, Emaus in particular, pegging the former Jays’ farmhand for a .259 TAv (compared to Castillo’s .241 and Hu’s .238).The Mets’ defense might take a hit with Emaus playing second base, but the gains in offense and future value outweigh the cons.
Releasing Castillo means the Mets would be paying him to do nothing for the team, whereas playing him would mean the team is paying him to hurt the team. In the end, the former should be the choice.