After being officially released yesterday by the Mets, second baseman Luis Castillo was quickly signed to a minor league deal by the Philadelphia Phillies. New York still owes Castillo $6 million, but Philadelphia will only be responsible for the major league minimum.
Given the fact that Castillo is 35 years old and "hit" .235 with no homers and 17 RBIs last season (a horrendous 68 OPS+), many are mocking the deal. Sure, Castillo is no Chase Utley (few are), but since we have no idea when Utley is going to return to the Phils’ lineup, they have to put someone out there to play second base. (Don't they? I need to go check the rulebook.)
Frankly, this is a no-lose proposition for Philadelphia. As it were, the incumbent in Utley's absence is Wilson Valdez, and no one is excited about that proposition. Castillo may not have many skills remaining, but he can still take a walk and get on base; even in his miserable 2010, he got on base at a .337 clip (a mark that Valdez has never reached). There is some value there, as Dave Cameron noted:
Castillo’s patience and ability to still make contact should be enough to let him rebound as something like a +1 win player.
Right now, with Utley’s health up in the air, the Phillies could really use a +1 win second baseman. Valdez is miscast as anything other than a utility player, and bringing in Castillo would allow them to keep him in the reserve role that his skills are better suited for.
Castillo isn’t a long term answer, of course, but he’s capable of holding down the second base job until they figure out what Utley’s time frame for return actually is.
Indeed. There's no risk for the Phillies here. If Castillo doesn't work out, well, the contract is non-guaranteed and GM Ruben Amaro can just cut bait. No, Castillo isn't worth the money that Omar Minaya threw at him a few years ago, but Philadelphia is basically getting him for free. It's a shrewd move.