When speaking about the competition for second base, New York Mets Manager Terry Collins said he wants to reduce the number of candidates by March 14.
Right now, the Mets have four players—Luis Castillo, Brad Emaus, Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner—trying to win a job as the Mets' starting second baseman.
The incumbent, Castillo, is entering the final year of his four-year, $25 million contract. Despite his $6 million salary for this season, Collins has not handed Castillo the job and has given every indication that Castillo is not the ideal player.
First, the Mets selected Emaus, an infield prospect with excellent plate discipline in the Toronto organization, in the Rule-5 draft this year.
They've also given Daniel Murphy, who has played parts of two seasons with the Mets at both first base and left field, plenty of time to learn his third position in as many years. The Mets love Murphy for his bat, and if he doesn't win second base outright, it's likely he'll earn a spot on the bench.
Collins has also stated that he views offense as the key characteristic from second base, citing Chase Utley and Dan Uggla as examples. That would seem to leave Castillo, who has no power, out of the mix.
So if Collins wants to reduce the competition as soon as March 14, that could mean taking the list of possibles down from four to two, spelling the end for Castillo.
"It's one of my biggest decisions every day, how to get those guys in there," Collins told Mike Puma of the New York Post. "After the 14th, we have to have this narrowed down. We don't have time to keep running a guy out there every three days or getting one at-bat because we split the games up."
Here are Spring Training stats for the Mets' second base candidates:
Luis Castillo: 10 AB .200 BA 1 RBI
Daniel Murphy: 11 AB .333 2 2B 3 RBI 1 R
Brad Emaus: 6 AB .286 BA
Justin Turner: 12 AB .154 BA
The Mets can't juggle these four players for much longer, so a decision has to be made as soon as possible.
If the Mets want power from their second baseman, Emaus (15 HR between Double-A Las Vegas and Triple-A New Hampshire last season) and Murphy (.275 BA, 14 HR in 639 at-bats) are the best candidates.
Who should start at second base in 2011?
Turner, the longest shot to win the second base job because he still has two minor league options available, hit .333 with 11 home runs in 78 games at Triple-A Buffalo last season.
Castillo has been given plenty of opportunities to show he can still be a solid player, but not even his salary and experience seem enough to save him from release, which is music to the ears of all Mets fans.
Along with Pitcher Oliver Perez, Castillo remains one of the symbols of the Omar Minaya regime, something Mets fans want to forget. Castillo's release would be the first step in creating a new period for the New York Mets, one that is filled with increased financial uncertainty.
Paying Castillo his $6 million and showing him the door would go a long way toward instilling some confidence in Mets fans that the club does have some money to work with.
Hopefully Mets fans will be able to raise a pint on St. Patrick's Day and drink to the release of Luis Castillo.