On Second Thought: Mets Acquire Castillo




The Deal
The Mets acquired second baseman Luis Castillo for a pair or minor leaguers, outfielder Dustin Martin and catcher Drew Butera.
The Big Leaguer
Though he's been slowed by injuries in recent years and never has hit for power, Castillo remains a very good defensive second baseman and a viable top-of-the-order presence because of his ability to work pitchers and put the ball in play. The switch-hitting Castillo, 31, sports a career .368 on-base percentage and has reached at a rate near that this season (.358). A two-time NL stolen base champ (and one-time caught-stealing leader), Castillo doesn’t run nearly as well as he once did because of nagging knee soreness. The Marlins signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 1992 and traded him to the Twins following the 2005 season. Castillo is making $5.75 million this season in the final year of a three-year deal.
The Prospects
Martin, a 26th-round pick in 2006 from Sam Houston State, led the Southland Conference with a .389 average as a senior and improved his stock last winter with a positive showing in Hawaii Winter Baseball. Already 23, Martin has solid all-around tools and is a smart hitter with a short, assertive lefthanded stroke. His arm and speed are a tick above-average and he can play all three outfield spots. In fact, he's spent much of the year in center field for high Class A St. Lucie.

The Mets selected Butera in the fifth round of the 2005 draft from Central Florida, and his catch-and-throw skills should get him to the big leagues as a reserve. Butera, 23, has below-average bat speed, though he does make consistent contact and has a smidgen of power. Drew's father Sal spent nine seasons in the majors--as a backup catcher--and is now special assistant to Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi.
Quick Take
If nothing else, Castillo provides the Mets with a consistent offensive and defensive performer at second base, something the club has lacked all season. Jose Valentin opened the season as the Mets' regular at the position, but he hit a miserable .241/.302/.373 in 51 games before going down with injury. Ruben Gotay has hit well as Valentin's primary replacement (.350/.382/.504 in 123 at-bats), but he's a career .276/.355/.423 hitter in the minors and appears to be playing over his head. Damion Easley also has played well (.266/.339/.438 in 169 at-bats), but at age 37 he's a below-average defender and is more valuable as a reserve. In Alexi Casilla and Matt Tolbert, the Twins have two switch-hitting second basemen in Triple-A ready to step in for Castillo. Butera gives them catching depth, which they sorely lack, and Martin has the hitting instincts to develop into a reserve outfielder down the road.

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