Back on October 21st, we threw out the idea of the Mets trading Luis Castillo to the Dodgers for Andruw Jones. Exactly ten days later, Joel Sherman dreamed up the same deal (hmm …. is it possible he reads MetsToday?). On Monday afternoon, Buster Olney reported that the Mets were indeed talking to the Dodgers about Andruw Jones — however, those talks did NOT necessarily include Luis Castillo. Naturally, there is already at least one source poo-poohing Olney’s scoop. Seems everyone wants to be either the first to report a rumor, or the first to squash it.
So let’s pull back for a moment, and look at this rationally. First, the Dodgers have absolutely no interest in Castillo. A month ago, when the left side of their infield was empty due to free agency, they might have, but in the last few weeks they signed both Casey Blake and Mark Loretta (as well as Rafael Furcal). Blake almost certainly will start at 3B, pushing youngster Blake DeWitt to 2B. Loretta is the ideal backup for all infield positions and insurance if DeWitt suffers a sophomore jinx. In other words, Castillo doesn’t fit. So if Jones comes to the Mets, it’s a near guarantee that Castillo will not be wearing Dodger blue.
But that doesn’t mean Jones to the Mets is dead — the Dodgers are still desperate to shed his contract, and are operating as if he was not on the roster. Otherwise, why would they be kicking the tires on Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu, and, of course, Manny Ramirez? Clearly they’ve given up on the idea that Jones can succeed in LA, and — come hell or high water — he’ll be gone before spring training. There aren’t too many other teams in MLB who have the money to take a gamble on the $15M left on Jones’ contract … heck, few teams can handle taking on HALF of it. The Mets have the resources to do it, though, and might be willing to do so if it costs them next to nothing in return — and if the Dodgers are willing to throw in a young pitcher such as 24-year-old LOOGY Greg Miller.
But then what about Castillo? Is there some way that he can be jettisoned while Jones jets his way into Flushing? Perhaps, but only if a third team is involved. Is this getting too complicated? Too unbelievable? Maybe, but it’s happened before. One need only look to the immovable contract of Mike Hampton back in the winter of 2002. If you remember, the Rockies were on the hook for around $70M over 6 years at the time, and Hampton was coming off a miserable 7-15 season with a 6.15 ERA. However, they managed to move his hefty contract — eating a nice portion of it — by involving both the Marlins and the Braves, as well as seven players. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Can Omar Minaya pull off a similar heist? Time will tell, but one thing’s for certain — Orlando Hudson is waiting very patiently, quietly, and idly, hoping something breaks with one of the two New York teams. He won’t wait forever, but it’s kinda strange that not a peep has come from his camp this winter. Methinks that Minaya has made a contingency offer to the O-dog, perhaps with an expiration date.
Personally, I like the idea of rolling the dice on Jones. When he’s right, he’s a rare talent, with the ability to put a team on his shoulders and carry it. If he wants to play in MLB beyond 2009, he will have to put up decent numbers, so one would think he’ll be motivated to, at minimum, arrive to spring training in shape, ready to rock and roll. My inside source confirmed that Jones’ major issue at the plate had to do with his leg injuries — it’s hard to hit when you don’t have solid legs beneath you — and that his condition was exasperated by being overweight and out of shape. The same source also told me that, in-season, Jones worked his fanny off — there was only one player who put more time in after hours, and that was Manny Ramirez. I’m betting that no matter where Jones winds up, he’ll have a better year than most corner outfielders.
Whether that year will occur in Queens is anybody’s guess. In the meantime, keep your hands away from the hot stove — the fire is still stoked and going strong.