Astros After Castillo

According to the Houston Chronicle, the Astros have Luis Castillo on their list of free-agent targets.

Strange, since they have publicly committed to moving Chris Burke back to the keystone after spending some time as an offensively challenged outfielder the past two years.

Per the Chronicle,

“The Astros have started dialogue with the agents for Castillo and center fielders Torii Hunter and Aaron Rowand, but the talks are exploratory.”

This is something I don’t quite get; according to the “rules”, a team can’t negotiate salary with free agents other than their own until November 13th. Yet the Astros are speaking with Castillo’s agents, the Mets are speaking with Scott Boras on Thursday, and myriad other teams are yakking it up with agents all over the GM meetings. The technicality is that the teams can’t discuss dollars until the 13th. So presumably all these meetings are “exploratory” or “just dialogue”. We’ve heard that Omar Minaya and Boras are getting together to find out what it will take to get A-Rod in orange and blue — but per the rules they can’t discuss money. So what are they talking about, if not money? The weather? The Queens public schools? Where to pick up the #7 train? Bunch of bunk. All that November 13th date means is no one will officially sign with another team until then.

But I digress … back to the Astros and Luis Castillo.

So the Astros are interested in Castillo, and the Mets haven’t yet made any hard offers to him — though they retain exclusive rights to negotiate with him for another week. By not taking advantage of this exclusivity, what are the Mets saying? That they’re seriously considering moving Jose Reyes or David Wright to second to make room for A-Rod? That they’re comfortable going into 2008 with Ruben Gotay and Damion Easley platooning at second base? That they’re planning to make a deal for Orlando Hudson or Jeff Kent?

Though I’d prefer to see Luis Castillo retained, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to lose him to the Astros. That scenario would likely make current Astros free agent Mark Loretta available — a guy I’d seen as a nice pickup on, ironically, this day last year. Back then, my argument was that he’d make an ideal platoon partner for Jose Valentin, who was a good hitter from the left side in 2006. This year, Loretta is still a good fit — as a platoon partner with Ruben Gotay. Gotay kills righties, Loretta kills lefties — perfect combination, offensively. Defensively, of course, they might not match Castillo, but we’re working this theory on the idea that Castillo is unavailable. The next-best free agent second base options are Tadahito Iguchi, Marcus Giles, Kaz Matsui, and Miguel Cairo. Considering that Kaz will not be brought back, and Iguchi is overvalued, the Loretta-Gotay scenario suddenly looks pretty good.

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. isuzudude November 6, 2007 at 12:34 pm
    Here’s how I would rank our 2nd base options for 2008 (keeping in mind I work realistically, so a Brian Roberts, Jeff Kent, Alfonso Soriano, Robinson Cano, Michael Young, Chase Utley trade will not be considered):

    1. re-sign Castillo
    2. sign david eckstein (as long as he’s willing to move to 2B)
    3. loretta/gotay platoon
    4. orlando hudson trade ( as long as it doesn’t cost us Milledge, Gomez, F-Mart, Pelfrey, Humber, Mulvey, Kunz, Owen, or Heilman)
    5. move reyes to 2B to accomodate (gulp) arod

    I’d also keep this in mind: just because it’s not being reported doesn’t mean the Mets and Castillo haven’t had discussions about a new contract. Perhaps there is an offer on the table that Castillo is waiting until he sees what he can get on the open market. Likewise, it would behoove the Mets not to rush things as there may be a better player they want to bring in. I don’t know if there are any better *fits” than Castillo, as who better than him to bat behind Reyes? But, with rumors about a poor attitude and signs of a rapidly aging body (esp. knees), perhaps the Mets are biding their time just in case something better comes along.

  2. skibolton November 6, 2007 at 1:08 pm
    I’d be fine with shipping 1 or two of those prospects of for hudson. I’d actually prefer that to any of the other available options. I just don’t see arizona wanting more outfielders. Kunz and Owen wouldn’t be able to be traded, they haven’t been professionals for 1 year yet. I’d have no problem with two of the other pitchers being traded for hudson though. I also wouldn’t be surprised if brian roberts was available. Baltimore’s farm system is awful, and they can’t possibly think they can compete in that division next year. I’d be perfectly happy giving up 2 of these guys for him. Those two are the only guys I’d really prefer to castillo. I’d think omar would have a good idea of the availability of these guys after the gm meetings.
  3. joe November 6, 2007 at 1:13 pm
    You are right that Castillo is likely waiting to see what’s available on the open market. If nothing else it drives up the price for the Mets.

    If, however, the Mets don’t sign Castillo, then we’re looking at Gotay/Easley (or possibly Loretta). There simply isn’t anyone available on the FA market — I’m not seeing Eckstein leaving StLouie, and I don’t see the Mets overpaying for Iguchi.

    As for Orlando Hudson, at least one if not more of the prospects you mention would HAVE to be included. He’s a Gold Glove caliber second baseman with above-average offensive skills — the D’Backs are going to ask for a little more than Steve Schmoll and Anderson Hernandez. That said, I agree — don’t make the deal.

    The only other options I see are the A-Rod idea (ugh) or a blockbuster deal resulting from A-Rod signing elsewhere that somehow brings a 2B our way (Roberts? Tejada? Furcal?).

  4. joe November 6, 2007 at 1:17 pm
    I think Baltimore may be dumb enough to get involved in the A-Rod auction, which could free up Tejada or Roberts. Or Melvin Mora. I’d welcome back Mora to play 2B.
  5. Micalpalyn November 6, 2007 at 1:47 pm
    The 2nd base job was a blackhole for a long time. I think Omar will tab Castillo. Then he’ll focus on other things.

    2. To stir the old pot- The rotation: If Pelfrey and humber are so persona non grata to other GMs but Omar is set on upgrading his starting rotation is it a reach to think he would deal Maine? here’s this logic; If you sign Silva you can fill a slot (albeit at 9-10M/yr), then turn around and offer the Twins (?) Maine with 2 others for Santana. that said I think AJ or Beddard are another tier in which Maine would not be included as a trade chip.

    Then you possibly look at a rotation of Santana-Pedro-Ollie-silva-(humber-Mulvey-FA).

    3. This brings me to another point. Given the ‘success’ of Maine and Ollie last yr, while Pel could not advance is there a missing ingredient? My hypothesis is that the jump from AAA to this edition of the Mets has been ‘easier’ for pitchers who have had some sample of ML experience, not just the minor leagues. Looking at other contenders (Detroit-Yanks) yes, they have developed young talent internally but I am at a loss as to why Pelfrey, especially have taken so long to mature at the ML level. Is another pitch that hard to learn/incorporate?

  6. isuzudude November 6, 2007 at 1:49 pm
    Seeing how complicated the 2B picture is likely to get this winter, and with so much depending on where Arod winds up, it just makes it that much more of a safe bet to lock up Castillo already.

    I’ve made comments to this effect before, but I think they’re worth repeating. I think Hudson is over-valued. Here’s why:

    1. He’s coming off thumb surgery. Just look at what offseason thumb surgery did to Carlos Delgado’s offensive numbers in 2007 and tell me if you want to chance going thru that again with Hudson.

    2. His numbers playing in Arizona are bloated because of the ballpark he played in. The BOB, or Chase Field it’s called now, is notoriously a hitter’s ballpark. This past year, although his average was a respectable .286 on the road, he hit only 3 dingers outside of Arizona, while hitting 7 at home. He also had an OPS .160 lower on the road than at home. In 2006 the difference home/away is much more pronounced, as he hit .321 with an .886 OPS at home, while he was .254/.734 on the road. And remember, Shea is not known for padding offensive stats, so I could easily see Hudson struggling with the bat if he were to land on the Mets. In comparison, Castillo hit .301 with a .721 OPS in 2007. Considering Castillo isn’t much of a defensive drop-off from Hudson, probably runs the same, has better plate coverage, and would cost less than Hudson in 2008, I see Castillo being a much better fit.

    3. So, taking into consideration Hudson may be no better than a .270/10 HR/60 RBI guy, would he really be worth parting with, say, Gomez and Mulvey? I say keep the prospects and either hold on to them for our own future, or trade them to get us something of more importance (like starting pitching or a catcher).

  7. joe November 6, 2007 at 3:38 pm
    I agree Hudson is grossly over-valued. His big start to the first half of 2007 certainly helped his stock rise as well. In the end he’s an expensive glove man who doesn’t do anything especially well offensively. And I also agree that he isn’t worth giving up one/some of the few trading chips that the Mets have. As Isuzu says, better to use those chips for pitching — a much more glaring and costly need.

    As for Maine, I think Santana or someone like him (Oswalt?) is the only deal where Maine is packaged. Would he be dealt for Haren? Hmm…

    Pelfrey is not developing quickly because everyone develops at different rates and he happens to be slower than some. In the old days, a guy like Pelf would have not yet seen MLB action, might not even be in AAA yet. They would have kept him at A and AA to develop an offspeed pitch. Instead, the Mets rush him to the bigs by eliminating his offspeed stuff and going with the two pitches that were closest to MLB-ready.

    And yes, learning and incorporating a MAJOR LEAGUE QUALITY pitch can and often does take a significant amount of effort and time. If it was easy, everyone would be like Luis Tiant and have 9 or 10 pitches in their repertoire. 🙂

  8. Micalpalyn November 6, 2007 at 11:04 pm
    I am picking on pelfrey,but similarly guys like Brazelton, matt Cain, Lowry, Edwin Jackson were sooo highly touted but have hardly excelled in the ML.

    Are they poorly evaluated? All these so called experts cant be wrong. On the flip side a guy like Santana is traded, picked up as rule v draftee and now is an all star. I think a missed point in my comment is that sometimes knowing there is no pressure on a team like the Nats, or KC helps a kid focus on learning. Not feeling every start is being scrutinized.

    just as we can applaud Wright’s success (now a Gold Glover), a big kick will be if brian bannister gets an award (is he eligible for ROY?).

  9. joe November 6, 2007 at 11:34 pm
    ** Are they poorly evaluated? **

    Not necessarily. The problem, with baseball as opposed to other sports, is that there is too much guesswork involved in evaluating young and unproven talent. For example, in football, if you are 6’4″, 275 lbs., can bench-press 500 lbs., squat 600, and run a 4.4 40, chances are you’ll have a chance to be successful in the NFL. Similarly, in basketball, if you are 7 feet tall, coordinated, visibly athletic, and can hit a jumper from 8 feet out, you’ll likely have a shot at the NBA.

    In baseball, though, you can throw 98 MPH and not make it in MLB. You can be strong, fast, athletic, and have “five tools”, yet still not succeed. The greatest case in point of all time is Michael Jordan, perhaps the best basketball player in history, yet he couldn’t translate any of his athleticism to be an even passable low-A minor leaguer.

    There are too many nuances in the game of baseball to have predictability — that’s why great scouts are so valuable. The irony, of course, is that even the best scouts in baseball are the lowest-paid employees (OK, maybe the beer vendor makes less — but not much less).

    Some guys have raw skills but can’t ever get it together. Maybe they can’t stay healthy. Maybe they can’t consistently command the fastball. Maybe they CAN apply their talent, but then can’t make adjustments (and readjustments) when the opposition “figures them out”. Maybe they don’t have what it takes mentally, or emotionally. Maybe they don’t want to put in the necessary effort. Maybe one little thing in their mechanics royally screws up everything.

    A big problem of the last 20 or so years is reliance on the radar gun for scouting and signing pitching. A kid lights up the gun around 94-95 and he’s automatically signed, regardless of the rest of his “make up”. Guys who throw “only” 90-91 are quickly dismissed if they don’t immediately dominate lower levels. That’s how the Bannisters and Santanas and Glavines slip through the cracks — because to get noticed and succeed with “lesser” raw skills, a guy has to work three times as hard and find a way to win. But there’s no way to measure a 21-year-old’s heart / desire / drive.

  10. Micalpalyn November 7, 2007 at 1:43 pm
    You are by far more expert but as WE know, SP then Omar have made serious changes to the scouting and development in the Mets system.

    Also some teams, (Minn) have away of scooping other teams lower tier talent. heck I would not be suprised if dustin martin became an All star in Minn- (I’m kidding).