Whether the Mets’ front office likes it or not, Luis Castillo is the Mets’ starting second baseman for the 2010 season.
The Mets made a trade with the Minnesota Twins to acquire Castillo at the trade deadline in 2007. He played very well with the Mets for the rest of the 50 games of the season, hitting .296/.371/.372 with 10 stolen bases, and even a home run.
The Mets were so impressed with his abilities that they gave him a four-year deal worth $25M. At the time, compared to other deals players were getting, this seemed great.
However, the next season he came to camp out of shape and unmotivated. He spent time on the DL with his bad knees and ended up only playing 87 games, hitting .245/.355/.305 with 17 stolen bases, and three home runs.
After a season in which he was the laughing stock of the league, Castillo became embarrassed by his poor performance. He wanted to live up to his contract and win the fans of New York back. In 2009, Castillo came to camp healthy and in great shape. If, before the season started, we knew about all the injury problems the Mets would have endured in 2009, Castillo’s name might have been the first to be mentioned as one of the hurt players. However, amongst all of the injured players, Castillo stayed relatively healthy—if not for a set of slippery steps in the dugout, Castillo might have played even more than the 142 games he played in.
Castillo put together a great 2009 season, hitting .302/.387/.346 with 20 stolen bases, and a home run. While he did have a great season, there seemed to be a dark cloud over him due to the incident of the dropped ball that lost the game against the New York Yankees. As hard as Castillo tried, he was not able to get that image out of the fans mind.
Since Castillo’s stock was higher, the Mets tried to trade him again this offseason. However, they ran into the same problem they did when they wanted to trade him after the 2008 season; no one wanted to take on that type of contract. Again, the Mets were interested in Orlando Hudson and he was interested in the Mets. But the Mets couldn’t find a team to take Castillo, even though there were a few reports of deals being close between the Texas Rangers, Chicago Cubs, and Boston Red Sox.
Again, Castillo is in camp, and yet again, he’s trying to win over Mets fans, even after a great performance in 2009. Castillo is motivated and excited about the 2010 season and knows that he has to produce to keep his job. The Mets re-signed Alex Cora who did a great job for the Mets last season, so good in fact that many fans felt that he should be starting at second over Castillo.
Bill James believes that Castillo will hit .282/.363./.331 with 16 stolen bases, and two home runs in the 2010 season. I think this is a fair prediction, although his OBP will probably be a little higher, around the .370s.
Castillo should do a great job for the Mets hitting in the number two spot in the lineup. He is the perfect player for that position. He can get on base and he knows how to work the count to give Jose Reyes… or Angel Pagan… or Gary Matthews Jr… or whoever the leadoff hitter for the Mets is, opportunities to steal bases.