There's been no shortage of drama in Philadelphia Phillies camp, specifically in regards to the health of an aging club. When Brad Lidge and Placido Polanco joined All-Star second baseman Chase Utley on the sidelines this week, the city of Philadelphia went into what some would consider panic mode.
With little middle-infield depth, are the Phils in a bit of a bind?
An interesting possibility arose early Friday morning when another camp riddled with a bit of drama, the New York Mets, finally announced the inevitable—the team had released another former All-Star in second baseman Luis Castillo.
After months of speculation, the two sides finally parted ways, when Castillo, who was scheduled to start for the Mets at second base today, asked for and was granted his release.
This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, as general manager Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins had reportedly preferred other options at second base, anyway.
Now, by granting the second baseman his release, the Mets are on the hook for the remaining $6 million of his salary as long as he is a free agent, and if another team wants to take a chance on Castillo, it'll cost them just league minimum—around $400,000.
That could be an appealing option for the Phillies, who, as mentioned, are noticeably thin up the middle. The leading candidate to replace Utley at second, should he need to begin the season on the disabled list, is Wilson Valdez, who is also the team's utility infielder.
There are some within the Phillies organization that believe that by starting Valdez at second base, the team is shooting itself in the foot.
His greatest value is his ability to play all over the diamond and spell some of the Phils' veterans when it is quickly becoming apparent that they can no longer play every day. Inserting Valdez into the starting lineup would open up a spot on the bench for less versatile players like Josh Barfield or Delwyn Young.
Obviously, adding another second baseman would allow the Phils to maximize Valdez's value as a utility player, but as always, it isn't that simple. All three of the players mentioned above are having monstrous springs.
In his second spring with the Phillies, Valdez is tearing the cover off of the ball, leading the team in spring hits. He's hitting the ball at a .444 clip and has already slugged, if you can call it that, a home run this spring.
In their first springs with the Phils, both Barfield and Young have impressed the right people. The two are battling for the Phillies' final roster spot and are hitting .407 and .311, respectively, while the latter has belted a home run this spring.
There are concerns about these players, however.
Neither of the final two are starting players and have settled into reserve roles over the last few seasons, and off of the bench, neither provides the versatility that Valdez does off of the bench. In short, Valdez may be too valuable as a utility player to start at second base. In that case, targeting a veteran second baseman may not be such a terrible idea.
In his tenure with the Mets, Castillo has been the picture of inconsistency.
After posting an average of .301 in his first half season with the club, he's posted averages of .245, .302 and .235 every year since. That said, Castillo has never been much of a hitter, as opposed to a pesky player standing in the batter's box trying to find a way on base.
The man is the owner of a career .368 on-base percentage—something that the Phils could desperately use in their lineup.
The greatest obstacle in a Phillies-Castillo union may be the fact that the latter hasn't been considered much of a "clubhouse guy" over the course of his career and has quickly developed into a public-relations nightmare.
Just last season, he was criticized by teammates for not partaking in a trip to a New York area hospital to visit war veterans, though he stated that he didn't want to be "horrified by the experience."
With that in mind, however, maybe what Castillo needs is a fresh start. While the Phillies and Mets were once heated rivals, the teams have gone in different directions in recent seasons, and former Mets like Valdez, Nelson Figueroa and Brian Schneider have found asylum with the Phils.
In the long run, the Phillies would be happy with Wilson Valdez as the starting second baseman with one of Josh Barfield or Delwyn Young filling the final bench spot.
However, for a team that is built to win this season, taking a small chance on a veteran, switch-hitting second baseman looking for a fresh start may not be a terrible idea.
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