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:
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?
“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: