Mets 2008 Off-Season Needs: Second Baseman

I think it’s universally agreed upon at this point that one of Mets GM Omar Minaya’s biggest mistakes was signing Luis Castillo to a long term contract. He’s a shell of his former self, with bad knees plaguing his ability to contribute to the Mets. Frequently, during the 2008 season Castillo sat on the bench watching Damion Easley, Argenis Reyes, and even Ramon Martinez start at second.

Castillo just finished the first year of his 4-year/$25 million contract. He received a $1 million bonus when he signed the deal and he’s scheduled to receive $6 million/year thereafter.

If that wasn’t enough to turn your stomach, here’s the bad news: I fully expect Castillo to be the Mets starting second baseman on opening day 2009 in Cincinnati. The reason is 100% financial. I don’t think the Wilpons will be of a mind to eat all or most of Castillo’s contract as has been suggested by some, including one of my favorite writers Matthew Artus.

You don’t need me to give you Castillo’s statistics for 2008 to know he was terrible. I heard you booing him at Shea in September, including when Jerry Manuel benched him just to avoid being treated so harshly by the home crowd. Castillo lost his starting spot during the most important games of the season in September to journeyman Ramon Martinez. Need I say more?

The sad truth is that Castillo isn’t going anywhere. The Mets have too many holes to fill in the free agent market this off-season in the outfield, bullpen, and rotation to eat Castillo’s contract. Billy Wagner’s $10.5 million isn’t covered by insurance because his injury was a pre-existing condition. So the Mets are eating that money already. And don’t forget that they’re paying Willie Randolph $2.25 million in 2009 to watch on his favorite network SNY. They won’t eat another big contract.

The bottom line is don’t get your hopes up about Orlando Hudson or Brian Roberts. The only way that will happen is if the Mets can trade Castillo for another player with a bad contract like the D-Backs’ Eric Byrnes. He’s got $22 million coming to him over the next two seasons. That may be a fit because they’ll need to fill a hole at second base when Hudson leaves. And the Mets need some help in the outfield.

Barring that type of deal, you should expect to see Castillo at second base again next season. I don’t see the Mets eating most or all of his contract.

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