The New York Mets released second baseman Luis Castillo yesterday, ending his tumultuous three and a half-year tenure in Queens.
Over the last few years, Castillo dealt with a slew of lower-body injuries, as detailed on his Baseball Injury Tool page. Last year, he spent 47 days on the disabled list with a left foot contusion. His poor offensive showing only added to the growing displeasure of Mets fans. Per Steve Popper:
Castillo and Oliver Perez entered camp as the albatrosses in the payroll, totaling $18 million this year between them and facing the anger of the fan base as symbols of the Mets’ troubles. Whether it was the too-big, too-long contract or simply the dropped pop-up in Yankee Stadium that did it, Castillo was booed at every turn by the home fans. [General manager Sandy] Alderson admitted the off-field perception factored into this decision.
The Phillies are dealing with some injury problems of their own. The future of Chase Utley is unknown and the Phillies must create contingency plans. Currently, they are auditioning largely unproven, relatively inexperienced infielders in Rule-5 pick Michael Martinez, Pete Orr, Josh Barfield, and Delwyn Young. None of the four players have had much success at the Major League level.
Also in the mix, of course, is Wilson Valdez. Valdez endeared himself to Phillies fans last year, filling in admirably as the Phillies’ infield succumbed to the injury bug. Overall, he finished with a .294 wOBA and played slightly above-average defense. Valdez and Castillo are very similar players in terms of general offensive output, but Castillo has better on-base skills, a factor the Phillies need to consider.
PECOTA projects Utley to post a .376 OBP. The second-highest among starters is Ryan Howard at .351. The Phillies simply do not have many players with good on-base skills. Valdez is projected at .309 and Castillo at .335.
Despite his injuries, Castillo set a career-high walk rate at 13 percent last year. Additionally, from 2002-09, he never finished with a wOBA lower than .315. Even in a dismal 2010, Castillo’s wOBA was at .285. In 732 Major League at-bats, Valdez has a paltry .271 career wOBA. Going forward, Castillo will be the better hitter even considering his age.
The Phillies can pick up Castillo for the Major League minimum (about $400,000) and use him in Utley’s stead if needed, with Valdez behind him on the depth chart. Castillo is not without risk, but for his cheap price, it is a risk worth taking. The combination of Castillo and Valdez is much better than Valdez and the winner of Martinez/Orr/Barfield/Young. And in the event that Utley is healthy, Castillo would serve as a useful pinch-hitter and pinch-runner.