What separates this deal from the Torrealba signing, which I defended, however mildly? A few things: age, draft picks and available talent.
First, this contract puts Castillo in blue and orange through his age-35 season. But at 31, he's already shown signs of decline all-around. He is taking fewer walks, thereby limiting his primary weapon. He is also stealing fewer bases and showing diminished range at second base. Already a below-average offensive player, Castillo will be fucking up the Mets lineup, stealing 500-600 plate appearances a year hitting second well into his declining years.
Second, as a Type B free agent, Castillo would have netted the Mets a compensation pick in one of the supplemental rounds of the June amateur draft. In fact, we thought that was one of the primary motivational factors behind trading for him, as that draft pick is worth far more than the "prospects" the Mets gave up in the deal. We wrote:
...since Castillo will be a Type B free agent if he declines arbitration, when the Mets don't resign him they will get a draft pick in the sandwich round between the first and second rounds of the amateur draft, itself worth more than Martin and Butera.But by signing Castillo the Mets are making that deal even worse! They are stripping the deal of all its possible value.
Third, the available second base talent at Castillo's level is far more prolific than the available catching talent at Torrealba's level. In fact, the Mets have such a player already signed; his name is Damion Gotay, or Ruben Easley. Castillo's defense is the same as theirs at this point, and as an offensive platoon, Easley and Gotay are superior to Castillo. There was no good reason to give him this contract.
With this deal, the near-deal for Torrealba and the speculated deal for Eckstein, the Mets have shown us something, and it's not pretty. They've shown us that they value illusory qualities of grittiness and "being a winner" more than actual on-field performance. They've shown us that they are more interested in pleasing the media and the ignorant fan base by signing players with name recognition rather than using far cheaper players who don't have any name recognition but can provide the same level of performance.
We were willing to excuse the Torrealba deal, giving Minaya and the Mets' front-office some slack. We showed how the signing at least marginally adhered to solid principles of management and was based in an understanding of the market. In the light of the Castillo deal, however, we can no longer maintain that stance.
This is just a waste of money.