Will Luis Castillo Be the Starting Second Baseman?

In a recent interview of Sandy Alderson by Adam Rubin at ESPN-NY, Alderson made fairly clear that Luis Castillo either will be the starting second baseman on Opening Day, or he will not be a Met.

From the interview, see this particular exchange:

Rubin:

In terms of second base, Luis Castillo — in addition to Oliver Perez — is a lightning rod for the fan base. If Castillo does not win the second base job, is there another role for him on this team? He does not have a lot of pop, or run-producing ability as a pinch-hitter. And I don’t know that he’s capable of playing multiple positions. Is it kind of second base or bust for him?

Alderson:

“Well, that’s certainly his best role on the team. If he’s going to be on the club, it probably will have to be as the regular second baseman, or somebody who plays quite a bit of the time at second base. He just doesn’t give us enough coverage other places to play a utility role. So I would say he needs to have a role on the team. And I think that’s probably his best and maybe only role — regular duty at second base.”

Unless Castillo puts on the catcher’s gear and starts shagging fly balls, it appears that he has to win the 2B job in order to remain in the orange and blue. And it makes sense, because if he’s not starting, Castillo has very little value. Further, since the Mets are going nowhere, and Castillo has no future, it behooves them to give younger players auditions throughout the year.

Castillo’s competition includes Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, and Brad Emaus. From Alderson’s comments, it sounds as though they plan to give Ruben Tejada a full year in the minors, so he’s a darkhorse for the position. Additionally, the utility infielder position is Chin-lung Hu‘s to lose.

The thing I wonder about is how the Mets are going to give Castillo, Murphy, Turner, and Emaus enough reps at second base during spring training to make a decision. It would be a challenge if we already knew the defensive capabilities of all four players — because theoretically, you could alternate them in DH roles just to give them at-bats — but the main issue is that no one has any idea if Murphy or Emaus can handle the position, and if Castillo has any range left at all. Ironically, Turner is the closest to a “known entity” in that the club had a good long look at him in Buffalo last year, yet he’s most likely to lose the competition because he still has options remaining. Turner, in 78 games with Buffalo in ’10, and two seasons in the minor previous, he’s proven to be a solid offensive player with good plate discipline and occasional pop, and plays about average defense. Some might project him to be a righthanded Todd Walker, or a Mark Loretta. If he can reach the level of either of those longtime MLBers, he’ll do OK for himself. But it seems like the competition is more about whether Emaus and Murphy can field the position, while also hitting well enough to force the Mets to eat the last $6M of Castillo’s salary.

Here are the possible scenarios:

1. Castillo wins the job because he looks like the player he was in 2009: putting the bat on the ball, getting on base close to 40% of the time, showing enough speed to steal about 20 bases, making the DP pivot as well as he ever did, and showing barely acceptable range. If he can play up the level where he was at age 33, the Mets would want to start him on Opening Day and hope he can keep it up long enough to trade him to a pennant contender for a few prospects come late June.

2. Castillo looks awful and is cut. Emaus shows he is an offensive force and can play an average second base. Meantime, Murphy either struggles on defense or at the plate. Emaus gets the job, Murphy makes the team as a utility man / pinch-hitter.

3. Castillo looks awful and is cut. Murphy shows he can play an acceptable second base and is hitting the snot out of the ball. Emaus falters either offensively or defensively. Murphy gets the job, Emaus is offered back to the Blue Jays.

4. Castillo looks awful and is cut. Murphy plays an acceptable second base and hits well. Emaus does the same. Both make the team and begin the season in a platoon.

5. Castillo looks awful and is cut. Murphy and Emaus both struggle either offensively or defensively. Turner keeps doing what he did in Buffalo last year and takes the job. Murphy makes the team in a bench role and Emaus is offered back to Toronto.

I’m guessing that, if nothing else, you like the first sentence of options 2 through 5.

That’s more or less every scenario. How Terry Collins finds enough time for all four players to make a fair evaluation is anyone’s guess, but it won’t be easy. My guess is the team would like to see Murphy and/or Emaus do something special to take the job, and those two will get significant reps early on.

What do you think? Did I miss a scenario? Do you think any of the candidates are a “favorite” of management, for any particular reason? How would you get everyone enough time on the field to make a decision? Comment below.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. murph January 11, 2011 at 7:31 am
    Here is another scenario: It is too close to call.
    If they all do well, they all do poorly, or they all perform just adequately.

    If nobody distinguishes themselves either way, we are left with the same status as before spring training. What do the Mets do then?

    • Steve S. January 11, 2011 at 12:30 pm
      If it’s too close to call, I’d cut Castillo, or (by some miracle) if another team needs a body at 2B, we trade him, along with a pile of cash.

      If they all stink, I’d still go with the younger guys, who at least have some potential.

  2. Bob Smith January 11, 2011 at 8:55 am
    because theoretically, you could alternate them in DH roles just to give them at-bats — When did the National League adopt the DH?
    • Gavin January 11, 2011 at 9:12 am
      In Spring Training NL sides also use the DH.
  3. Mookie January 11, 2011 at 9:12 am
    Since he was acquired in ’07, we’ve seen that Castillo in the batter’s box is eerily reminiscent of watching a girl’s softball game on ESPN.

    He’s no longer anywhere close to a gold glove-caliber 2nd baseman.

    So, what’s the real problem here?

    - He’s never going to produce to the tune of $6MM/per, at this stage of his career.

    - We’ve got more than enough in-house options, to say that a couple of them may actually be intriguing options at 2-bag.

    Yesterday, the Rangers got rid of their “gift that kept on giving” (Michal Rozsival, his presence akin to herpes).

    I’m hoping the Mets cut their losses with Castillo in the same fashion, and I’m not even expecting that they get a piece of lint in return.

  4. CatchDog January 11, 2011 at 9:49 am
    Last season, the Mets had the lowest OPS in baseball at second base, by almost 80 points. Any combination of JT, Murph and Emaus HAS to be better.

    Let us pray.

  5. Bohnjetz January 11, 2011 at 11:52 am
    They can sign Jorge Cantu and plug him at second. He is Young and can field and rake. Will not cost you a arm or a leg.
  6. gary s. January 11, 2011 at 1:55 pm
    Just the fact that we are still talking about Castillo is sickening.How does Alderson evaluate talent?His numbers are horrible, no one wants him in a trade and the fans despise him.Yet, he is still on the team.Looks like Fred and Jeff still call the shots for this team.
    • Andy January 11, 2011 at 4:54 pm
      It’ Minaya’s contract – you can’t blame Alderson for it yet. None of the other second base options available are so blow-us-away great that Castillo shouldn’t at least get the opportunity to earn his $6 million, since the Mets are paying it to him regardless . . .
    • John January 11, 2011 at 8:55 pm
      It makes no sense to release Castillo at this point. There is always the off chance that he comes into camp in great shape and you can find someone who is willing to take a chance with him. EIther taking salary or maybe a low level prospect.
      Not likely but there is nothing to be gained by releasing before then
  7. micalpalyn January 11, 2011 at 3:00 pm
  8. heybatter January 11, 2011 at 3:30 pm
    Castillo and Omar become the highest paid scouts in franchise history and spend the year combing the Dominican Repulic looking for switchitting slap hitters and lounging on the beach with a rum swizzle.
  9. Mic January 11, 2011 at 5:44 pm
    Sorry Joe,
    The blogsphere has a ton of life based on your piazza commentary proving you have listeners.

    As such I can’t ignore the minority voice that says the mets can do better than stand pat with the present roster.

    Ala the padres, I think DW, Pel, Reyes could be bundled with Castillo in a strong trade.

    DW, Reyes in particular could well be at the point where they are AT premium value.

    REBUILD!

  10. BklynCowpoke January 11, 2011 at 6:01 pm
    I think, based on his September performance last year that Ruben Tejada should be given a chance to show he can hit major league pitching at the .250 level. If he can do that with superior defense, he should be our secondbaseman.
    • John January 11, 2011 at 8:57 pm
      Even at Triple A the kids is playing well above his age level. Let him get some experience and confidence. After all he may be the shortstop after next year.
  11. mrtasan January 11, 2011 at 7:49 pm
    its too early to call this a lost year…at least wait until the second game of the 2011 season…mets have best 1st game record in majors
  12. gary s. January 11, 2011 at 9:06 pm
    everybody on this website has a better chance of winning megabucks than castillo doing anything to help the team in 2011.Keeping him on the roster is insane.Most of the posters keep saying rebuild in 2011.You don’t rebuild with a washed up 2nd baseman in his thirties, who hits like a girl and has no range in the field.We signed him to a bad contract.He can’t play.Maybe murphy, emaus or turner can play 2nd base.Let the 3 of them battle it out and let the manager pick the winner.PLEASE RELEASE CASTILLO!!!!!!!!!
  13. Marathon Met January 13, 2011 at 12:39 pm
    Assuming nobody is clearly superior, options will be decisive. Turner will start in aaa and if Murphy has options he might too. The first month of the season will be the real test. Similar to what happened with pagan and Davis last year.
  14. Henry Jasen January 13, 2011 at 4:44 pm
    You left out the rest of scenario 1. If Castillo shows something in ST and the Mets keep him at second. The Emaus has the edge on the utility job because the Mets can’t keep him unless he stays on the 25 man roster. Murphy has another option year left, which can be put to good use learning the intricacies of second base in the minors.
  15. gary s. January 13, 2011 at 6:20 pm
    henry, explain “shows something” please ..just curious
  16. Brian K January 13, 2011 at 8:44 pm
    Scenario #6: Castillo plays decent, but not well enough to ignore the chance to give Emaus and Murphy a shot. He gets cut while the two younger guys share a platoon.