Phillies Acquire Mets’ Castoff Luis Castillo
If there ever was any doubt that the injury to Chase Utley, the best second baseman in the National League, was serious, it ended a few minutes ago. The Phillies have reportedly signed Mets’ second baseman Luis Castillo who was released on Friday.
Who will be the Phillies opening day starter in less than two weeks has now become a bit more interesting. Wilson Valdez, who spelled Jimmy Rollins for much of last year, but also replaced Placido Polanco and Chase Utley, was the logical choice to begin the season at second base. Last year, Valdez played in 100 games and got 333 at bats. He ended the season at .258/4/35/7 which was his career high in each category.
With Luis Castillo joining the club, it has likely sealed the fate of the Phillies who were fighting for a reserve infield position while Utley healed. That includes Josh Barfield who has not been a starter since 2007 with Cleveland, but is hitting .355 this Spring. There’s Michael Martinez, a Rule 5 selection, who has hit .318 this Spring. If the Phillies want to keep Martinez, he needs to stay on the Philadelphia roster for the 2011 season or he goes back to where he came from. Also in the mix are Delwyn Young (.292 this Spring) and Pete Orr (.333) who have both performed well in Clearwater. While all four of these players have hit well, none have shown the defense that the Phillies pride themselves on. Barfield failed to convert two double plays in the Phillies game on Sunday and Young has been moved to right field in the past, because he couldn’t cut the muster at second.
Defense is where Valdez, and Castillo, are strong. Valdez made only 3 errors all of last season and has a .995 lifetime fielding average in the Majors. Castillo does not have the range that he once had, but he only made 2 errors last season for the Mets and finished with a .993 fielding average.
The great thing about Castillo, however, is that he is cheap and Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has said that the Phillies were “tapped out” when it comes to money. Since he was released, the Mets are responsible for all but $400,000 of his $6 million salary that he is still owed for this year.
Castillo is a career .290 hitter and if you remember back to 2003, you remember when the top of the Marlins lineup of Juan Pierre and Castillo were the best table setters in all of baseball. The negative is that Castillo is not the player he was back in ’03. His average slipped to .235 last year and he drove in just 17 runs. Although he is hitting a respectable .286 in Spring, Castillo is tremendously disliked by the tough Mets fans who still vilify him for dropping that routine popup that cost the Mets a game versus the hated crosstown rival Yankees. It’s tough to not be liked in New York and Castillo has also been labeled as having a poor attitude in the Mets clubhouse.
Manuel Will Choose Valdez
I’m sure the first conversation that Phillies manager Charlie Manuel will have with Castillo is that any negativity will not be tolerated in the Phillies clubhouse which is known as the best in baseball.
Knowing Manuel, he will not yield the starting second baseman job to Castillo whom he has previously mentioned had “declining skills.” One thing that Manuel is big on is loyalty and he has to recognize the loyalty that Valdez has shown to the Phillies, as Valdez came through last year and played an important role that led to the Phillies divisional title. Bill James, however, might opt for Castillo over Valdez. James projects Castillo to be a .275 hitter this year while Valdez is slated to match his average of .258 from last year.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: Wilson Valdez — How valuable Wilson Valdez is to your fantasy baseball team this year depends on how bad Utley’s injury is. At this point, since Utley has not played at all, you have to think that Valdez is going to get the majority of the playing time at the keystone position. Assuming another season of 300 at bats, we project Valdez at .260/6/40/10.
2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection: Luis Castillo — While a change of scenery should help Castillo, he is 35-years-old and a return to his 2003 level of play is unlikely. We think Castillo will spell Valdez about twice per week. Hitting out of the #8 hole will not help Castillo’s (or Valdez’s) numbers. Castillo will likely be released once Utley returns. Therefore, Luis Castillo only has marginal value in the very deepest of fantasy baseball leagues.
Carlos Ruiz & Raul Ibanez: The surprising beneficiaries — With the injury to Utley, Raul Ibanez will move to the #3 spot with Ryan Howard hitting behind him. That should help Ibanez’s season. Also, Carlos Ruiz, the only Phillie regular to hit over .300 last year, will also benefit from the move from the #8 spot to #7.