Tag: luis castillo

Mets Spring Training Game 2

The New York Mets refused to send me to Port St. Lucie this spring, and I’m still waiting for that big windfall of money that was supposed to come with the big change in our country’s leadership, so as a result game analysis is limited to televised contests.

The Mets won the game 9-zip for their second February win in as many tries, but we’re really not counting wins and losses in the spring — they mean very little. Instead, we’ll pick and choose bits and pieces of the game that are worth analyzing.

Oliver Perez

I’m LOVING Ollie’s mechanics. For the first time in a long time, Oliver Perez’s pitching motion is more front and back as opposed to side to side. In other words, he is (sort of) following a straight line toward home plate. This is a much more efficient motion — not according to me, but to Sir Isaac Newton, who discovered that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

If you notice, Oliver Perez is now starting his windup by lifting his right foot straight back behind the rubber. It seems like a small maneuver, but it gets the back and forth thing initiated. Compare this to his windup of 2008, when he often started by moving his right foot toward third base. This first move got him going in a side-to-side motion, which eventually caused his front shoulder to fly open and his release point to be all over the place. Keep an eye on that right foot — it is the key to Ollie’s success.

Luis Castillo

He looked pretty good — physically he was in shape, he was running well, and he looked fairly confident at the plate. This idea of him batting leadoff, I’m sure, is simply Jerry Manuel’s way of boosting his confidence while also getting him as many game at-bats as possible to get going. When the real games begin, Castillo will hopefully find himself in his much more suited spot of #2.

Dillon Gee

This kid is highly hyped by team officials and is beloved by Brooklyn Cyclones fans, and he’s someone I would have liked to have seen live, from behind the plate. From the awful centerfield camera angle, there wasn’t much to see, though he looks to have solid mechanics and some downward movement on a below-average fastball (87-88 MPH). He only threw one inning, so it was hard to make a judgment one way or another. Hopefully we’ll see more of him.

Nelson Figueroa

Two hitless innings. His command looked a little off, but he battled. It’s going to be very difficult for Nelson to win a job with big names such as Livan Hernandez and Freddy Garcia in camp, and Tim Redding operating with a guaranteed contract. However, I’m rooting hard for him and hoping he can sneak his way onto the 25-man roster.

Andy Green

I think Andy Green came to bat sixteen times in this game. I like him as a ballplayer, but not sure why he’s in camp. There’s no room for him as long as Alex Cora and Fernando Tatis are around, though I suppose he has value as a backup if Cora gets injured.

Baserunning

The Mets, as a team, were especially aggressive and heady on the basepaths. Carlos Delgado took a rare extra base on a ball in the dirt, and Danny Murphy swiped third base by way of delayed steal. If slowpokes like Delgado and Murphy are going to be this aggressive during the year, it’s going to be an exciting season.

Hitting

Nearly all the Mets hitters showed good patience and strike zone judgment, and seemed focused on hitting the ball to the opposite field. Good things to see.

Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran appeared to be in a competition for the cleanup spot, with Reyes swatting two homers including a grand slam, and Beltran smashing a dinger of his own far into the palm trees beyond the left field fence.

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Why the Mets Should Sign Orlando Hudson

Back in November, word on the street was that Gold Glove second baseman Orlando Hudson was looking for a 5-year, $50M contract.

Had the Mets not been saddled with the three years and $18M remaining on Luis Castillo’s contract, they surely would have at least entered the bidding on Hudson — and might have signed him quickly, as they did with Francisco Rodriguez. Certainly, it helped that Hudson had made public statements that he wanted to play in New York, and would “love” to play with Jose Reyes.

My, how times have changed.

The price for Hudson has now dropped to under $5M and only one year. What hasn’t changed is the Mets are still stuck with Castillo. However, consider this: Signing Orlando Hudson right now for one year at $5M puts the Mets at $23M over the next two years for their second baseman/men. That’s less than half of what Hudson was demanding in dollars, and is a three-year commitment as opposed to a five-year one. And instead of getting just one player for the position, the Mets get two.

Granted, for the last two years of the deal the Mets have only Castillo and not Hudson. But, there’s a chance that Castillo can prove himself healthy, and become trade bait. Before, it was too much for the Mets to swallow to have two second basemen with multi-year, multi-million dollar contracts. Now, however, the idea of having Castillo and Hudson on the roster at the same time is not only palatable, it makes perfect sense.

Sure, signing Orlando Hudson to a one-year, $5M contract means that the Mets have a very, very expensive backup second baseman in Luis Castillo. But when you look at the second base position as a budget unto itself, spending a total of $11M for one year to have Hudson and Castillo man the position … well, what are the Mets waiting for?

Now, if the Mets insist they don’t have another $5M to dish out for Orlando Hudson (but have more than twice that amount for an assortment of AAAA fodder), we may as well all pack it in.

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Mets After Andruw Jones?

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.

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Mets After Juan Pierre?

Ken Rosenthal’s latest column suggests that the Mets are interested in Juan Pierre.

Per Rosenthal:

Imagine Jose Reyes and Juan Pierre combining for 140 stolen bases at the top of the Mets’ batting order.

The Mets may have interest in dealing for Juan Pierre.

The idea is a longshot, but the Mets have shown interest in trading for Pierre, the Dodgers’ forgotten outfielder.

To move Pierre, the Dodgers would need to assume a large chunk of his remaining salary — $10 million in 2009, $10 million in 2010 and $8.5 million in ’11.

We sort of threw this idea around back in October, as part of a “megadeal” (which looks sillier and sillier as time goes on).

To me, I don’t see the Mets going after Pierre unless it’s as part of an exchange of bad contracts — i.e., for Luis Castillo. But since the Dodgers have signed Mark Loretta, why would they want the broken-down Castillo?

Further, as Rosenthal points out in his column, the Dodgers aren’t sure whether they’ll re-sign Manny Ramirez for left field, and don’t know what they’ll get out of Andruw Jones — so Pierre is a guy who is insurance for both spots. Further, there have been rumors brewing that Matt Kemp is being dangled at the winter meetings — possibly in return for Robinson Cano.

Finally, if the Mets do in fact acquire Pierre — even with LA footing part of the bill — will they also keep Castillo? How many punch-n-judy hitters can they afford to have in their lineup?

Those of you around my age and older might remember the Cardinals of the early 1980s, who routinely featured lineups with various combinations of Lonnie Smith, Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, and Vince Coleman. It was a run and gun strategy that worked well back then, when parks were larger and half used astroturf, but I’m not sure how it would perform in today’s game. As an old school guy, though, I’d love to see it — but I don’t believe the Mets have the chutzpah to try it. They’ll let someone else do it first, then copy them.

I’m still intrigued by the idea of taking on LA’s other bad contract — that of Andruw Jones. If you’re going to gamble, gamble big, no? Throw your chips on a guy who could be a monster, rather than one whose best-case scenario is an OPS in the .600s.

The only way I see Juan Pierre wearing a Mets uniform in 2009 is if the Dodgers sign Manny, the Mets move Castillo AND Ryan Church, and the Dodgers agree to pay a significant portion of Pierre’s salary — which will be difficult for them to do if they’re paying Manny a king’s ransom.

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Mets Want Orlando Hudson

Per Ken Rosenthal:

The Mets are desperate to move second baseman Luis Castillo to create a spot for free agent Orlando Hudson. The only way to do it would be to exchange Castillo’s contract for another of similar value, but lots of luck. When the Mets asked the Rangers about a Castillo-for-Vicente Padilla — a swap that would require the Rangers to move Ian Kinsler to left field — they were told, “No thank you.” …

Is this a rumor, or speculation? We’re never quite sure with Rosenthal, who tends to blend the two.

If true, it’s not much of a scoop to hear that the Mets want to move Castillo — we’ve been hearing that since October 1. And it’s not surprising they’d be interested in Hud-Dog, especially since Hudson himself has stated he’d “love to play for the Mets and with Jose Reyes”.

Also not surprising that the pitching-starved Rangers would reject such a trade offer.

What IS surprising is that the Mets would think the Rangers would have any interest in Castillo, since they already have one of the best young second basemen in the game in Ian Kinsler. Also mildly surprising that there is any talk about Castillo when the Mets #1, #2, and #3 needs right now are pitching.

I know, I know … not much of a rumor … but anytime Rosenthal mentions the Mets, I figure you may be interested.

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Can Castillo Play Under Manuel?

We’ve heard the buzz for some time, and now we’ve got it from the horse’s mouth.

“If Castillo remains with us, my job is to make him the best player he can possibly be.”

If Castillo remains with us? Are you kidding me? Is that a threat? A promise? Some kind of lament?

Certainly not exactly a ringing endorsement. Reading into that statement, it sounds like Jerry Manuel will not be pleased if Luis Castillo is a Met come spring training. If that indeed is the case, why would Manuel be so irresponsible as to say what he did? Didn’t he realize that the New York media would pounce all over it and broadcast it through every imaginable vehicle? And once that happened, how much more difficult is Omar Minaya’s job of finding Castillo a new home? It was already a near-impossible task, but now that any shred of doubt has been removed that his own manager would prefer that Castillo not return, how is Minaya supposed to make a deal?

Here’s what Manuel just did with that statement: established that the Mets either will have to start the season with Castillo at second base, or eat his entire contract. At best, they may be able to include him as a throw-in to a deal focusing on another player, AND eat at least 60% of the $18M left on his contract. Yes, the Mets have money to spend, but one thing the Wilpons hate to do is pay people who are not employed by the organization. And they’re already bristling at the thought of paying Willie Randolph and Billy Wagner next year.

But what’s really at issue here is a.) Manuel’s lack of support for someone on his team; and b.) Manuel’s consistently inconsistent stands on issues and his players. It began from his first day on the job, when he vowed to assign roles to the bullpen — then did the exact opposite. His reaction to Castillo has been similar. Back in June 2008, Manuel hoped that Luis Castillo would be a role model for Jose Reyes. And as recently as early November, Manuel said this about Castillo in The New York Times:

“Obviously, it was a difficult season for him,” Manuel said. “As we sit here today, I’m sure being the competitor that he is, he’ll try to do everything he can to impress the people in New York. Physically, he’s got to be ready, but I also think for him, mentally, too, because of the kind of things he had to endure, dealing with not playing and dealing with the reception he got.”

In a recent interview on SNY, Jon Heyman stated that Manuel “didn’t get along with him when he was in Florida, didn’t particularly like him, and would like him traded …”

Interesting quip by the heir apparent to Peter Gammons as “Mr. Inside Source”, but I have to take issue with Heyman’s statement — because Manuel coached Castillo for only one year, and it was OVER TEN YEARS AGO, when Castillo was a 21-year-old rookie. In fact, Castillo only played in 75 games that year. People can change, can’t they? Particularly immature kids in their early 20s? I’d be surprised if Manuel didn’t like Castillo today for the same reasons of a dozen years ago — and if he holds a grudge that long, I’d hate to think what happens if anyone else gets on his bad side.

While it’s nothing new to see a manager’s dislike for a current player become public, it is a strange move by a man who has yet to attain success as a field general. And by success I mean win a pennant. Manuel does have a ring from being the bench coach of the 1997 Marlins, but when fully in charge, his teams have repeatedly “just missed” — his White Sox finished in second place four times, in third once, and in first once. That one time they won the division, they were swept in three games by the Wild-Card Mariners.

My point here is, I don’t mind if Dick Williams calls out Steve Rogers, even if it’s a flawed decision — because Williams had won several titles and wore World Series rings. If Billy Martin says Larry Gura is a sissy, then I’m going to back Martin’s assessment. When Scott Rolen has issues playing for Tony LaRussa, guess whose next address is in Canada? And if Ozzie Guillen thinks Javier Vazquez isn’t a big-game pitcher, I do what Ken Williams does and jettison Javy. But when a consistent second-place finisher — and one whose mismanagement resulted in the second-worst late-season collapse in the franchise’s history — has a problem with one of his players … well, I’m sorry but his opinion doesn’t carry nearly as much weight as those who have led champions.

Jerry Manuel’s 2008 honeymoon ended in mid-September. The quotes that were cute last May and June won’t be so endearing in 2009 if the Mets aren’t sitting at the top of the division. Should the Mets open the season with Luis Castillo as the starting second baseman, how is that going to play out with Manuel? We’re three months away from spring training, and already Jerry wants him gone — so if he doesn’t go, there may be an internal problem to kick off Opening Day. Does it make sense to begin a season in turmoil? The uphill climb is hard enough after two straight collapses and improved competition.

Of course, this article becomes completely moot if Luis Castillo is moved this winter. But if he isn’t, this speck of a comment could snowball into an icy issue.

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Royals Shopping Guillen

Jon Heyman is quite the busy bee today. He also dropped this bombshell: the Kansas City Royals are “quietly” shopping outfielder Jose Guillen.

First of all, it can’t be that quiet because we’ve been hearing about it since early October. Secondly, how is this a scoop when, again, we’ve been hearing about KC looking to dump Guillen since early October?

Maybe it’s not a “legitimate” rumor until Heyman reports it.

Guess we can reopen the unrealistic Luis Castillo – for – Jose Guillen conjecture ….

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Castillo Wants Second Chance

Through Joel Sherman’s column at the New York Post today, it has been learned that Luis Castillo wants a second chance to earn his keep and win over the fans of Flushing. (Hat tip to Isuzudude!) From the article:

His agents were so concerned that he had become unviable in New York that Seth Levinson, Sam Levinson, Keith Miller and Peter Pedalino called him into an October meeting in their Brooklyn Heights office to begin plotting an exit strategy. Except during the four-hour meeting, the agents were shocked to learn their client did not want a fresh start elsewhere.

Further, Castillo met personally with Omar Minaya to request that the team keep him through the winter.

“He wanted to let the front office know that he was disappointed in how the year went, and promise to do everything he could to get in shape and be the kind of player he had been for 10 years,” Minaya said.

Now, we know that every offseason breeds plenty of aging ballplayers who talk about getting in shape and making a comeback, returning strong, etc. (Bret Boone, anyone?). But usually, it is a free agent on the market who is spouting off through their agent in an attempt to create some demand for his services. We’ve heard the story before, right?

But in this case, we have a player who has no financial motive to redeem himself — Luis Castillo is getting his $18M no matter what. Further, we have a man who is doing the unthinkable — he’s ASKING for an opportunity to win over New York fans who would prefer to see him underneath the Shea Stadium rubble. Rational, sensitive, intelligent people do not plead for this scenario — they flee from it. It’s not a secret that the Mets are trying to move the veteran second baseman out of New York, in part because the fans want him gone.

“As New Yorkers, we all know that when the fans latch on to a scapegoat, they don’t let go until their prey is dead,” Seth Levinson (Castillo’s agent) said. “Louie absolutely understands that the climb to the top of the second-chance mountain will be long and difficult.”

The fact that Luis is manning up to his awful 2008, and begging for the impossible challenge of turning legions of boo-birds into supporters, is either remarkably stupid or incredibly brave. Maybe it’s both.

Already, Castillo has shed some of the extra pounds he was carrying since last spring, and is taking advantage of the resources available to him to get in shape.

The Mets’ head trainer, Ray Ramirez, has been overseeing Castillo’s offseason regimen.

“[So far] his weight, body fat and in all things you would want to see, Mr. Castillo is doing well,” Minaya said.

In addition, Castillo plans to play winter ball for the first time in years, as a means of re-finding his hitting stroke and formerly Gold-Glove defense.

Whether this new attitude and commitment to excellence results in an All-Star campaign is anyone’s guess. Regardless of how driven Castillo is, he can’t reverse the aging process (not legally, anyway) and his knees will never be the same. And there’s still a very good chance that he won’t have his “comeback year” in the orange and blue — certainly the Mets will try to trade him, after they address the more glaring needs on the pitching staff. But it is commendable to hear that Luis Castillo is determined to the opposite of what would seem to be the best plan, and prove to both himself and the New York fans that he can still play baseball at the highest level, and do it well.

Good luck, Luis. It sure would be nice to have one less question mark in 2009.

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