Archive for February 9th, 2009

Luis Castillo, A Fall From Grace or Just a Bump in the Road?

February 9, 2009


In July of 2007, the New York Mets acquired switch-hitting second baseman Luis Castillo from the Minnesota Twins in a trade for two minor league players. At the time, the Mets had just lost their everyday second baseman, Jose Valentin, to injury. This setback prompted Mets GM Omar Minaya to take action.

“With Valentin going down, this is a move we needed to do,” Minaya said. “For me, it’s important to have a guy to the right of first base to cover ground.”

When speaking about Castillo’s fielding capabilities, there is no argument that he is a talented infielder who may still possess above-average range. From 1999-2006, seven seasons with the Florida Marlins and one with the Twins, his average fielding percentage was a solid .983. During those eight seasons, Castillo averaged 139 games at second base producing an average of 34 stolen bases, 164 hits, and 86 runs per season. In that time, he also kept his batting average per season hovering around .300. In 2000, most notably his best offensive output, he batted .334 with 180 hits and 101 runs scored. Castillo also led the National League that year in stolen bases with 62.

In 2003, at the peak of his career, he amassed a 35-game hitting streak and helped the Marlins beat the Yankees to win his second World Series ring with the club. His also has three All-Star Game appearances to go along with his three Gold Gloves.

Going on 34 and starting the second year of his contract as a Met, Castillo is very much a different player. Plagued by nagging injuries, he is unmistakably slower and at times, looks hobbled when attempting to field his position. The burning question when the Mets acquired him then and even now is whether or not he is still healthy.

“We feel that he should be fine going forward,” Minaya said at the time of the signing. “He was one of the guys that we definitely considered.”

But to Mets fans, Castillo is probably the most unpopular player on the ball club. His short time with the organization has been viewed as an overall failure, leading critics to call for a buyout of the rest of his contract.

Castillo in the meantime has re-dedicated himself to off-season training to ensure that he is in top condition for the 2009 season. Minaya reinforced his second baseman’s commitments by saying, “[So far] his weight, body fat and in all things you would want to see, are doing well.”

With the start of this season just around the corner, the veteran Castillo will be one of the players most scrutinized right from the get-go. If he performs out of the box poorly, the front office may not be as patient as they have been in the past. Even with a formidable resume, the perennial contact hitter may find himself searching for another employer if the team does not receive the desired results.

Castillo is all too aware of what’s at stake. “You know how it is here, we know how the fans are when you don’t do well,” he said one day last season after being given the day off.