Unloading Gary Matthews Jr. Will Be Tougher Than Luis Castillo

An article by posted on December 9, 2009

According to John Harper of the Daily News, the Angels may be willing to trade outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. to the Mets for second baseman Luis Castillo.

Matthews is still owed close to $22.5 million over the next two seasons.

Last night, I spoke to someone with knowledge of the situation, who told me that the Angels would be willing to eat a good chunk of that contract if they could find a taker. The Angels would like to engage with Jason Bay or Matt Holliday, but would prefer to move Matthews Jr. first.

Last season, the 34-year old switch hitting outfielder batted just .250 with four home runs and 50 RBIs in 316 at-bats. He is in steep decline and has posted a sub .700 OPS for two consecutive seasons now.

As for the Mets getting involved, there is no indication that they have any interest. Even though they are near desperate to find a taker for Luis Castillo, they have no intention of compounding the situation by taking on a player who would bring little to the table and cost far much more.

For more on why the Mets are so desperate to unload Castillo, Ben Shpigel of the New York Times, penned a solid article that reveals the Mets thinking. In addition to Matthews Jr., Shpigel lists all of the players with bad contracts that are known to be available:

a) Bradley: owed $21 million through 2011
b) Burrell: owed $9 million in 2010
c) Pierre: owed $18.5 million through 2011
d) Matthews: owed $23 million through 2011
e) Castillo: owed $12 million through 2011

It’s hard to believe how difficult it’s been for the Mets to unload Castillo who doesn’t seem nearly as bad a contract as those listed, and he had a solid offensive season. Obviously, teams are scared off by his defensive limitations more than his offense which is still solid.

Castillo is tied for the worst three-year plus-minus rating – a metric devised by John Dewan, author of the Fielding Bible, to measure defense – among second basemen at minus-28. Basically, that means that Castillo made 28 fewer plays than the average second baseman would make. Castillo handles balls hit right to him and can turn a mean double play, no question about that. But his range is severely limited.

Shpigel also adds another dimension to all of this.

For one thing, the Mets are trying to further change the clubhouse culture. This is not to say that Castillo was aloof or divisive, or that he was a bad influence. He played hard and got along well with teammates, who respected his determination and commitment to bouncing back from a terrible 2008.

But the Mets recognize a need for an energy boost, both on the field and in the clubhouse. That is why someone like Orlando Hudson is so appealing to them.

Hmm… An interesting subplot to all of this for sure…

Last night I likened Luis Castillo to a human speed bump, because I believe that he has slowed down any momentum that the Mets were hoping to build up after the season ended. They seem resigned to waiting until they move Castillo before doing anything else. So far, players like Placido Polanco and Chone Figgins weren’t willing to wait for the Mets before signing even though they expressed interest.

The same thing may happen with Mark DeRosa who the Mets also like.

It’s a tough situation the Mets find themselves in, but at some point they need to bite the bullet and make a move to rejuvenate this offense. One reason that the Cora signing was so bad, was because they killed a utility spot that they could have used for Castillo in a worst case scenario. That’s the problem when you start the off season by filling all of your reserve roles rather than working from the top priority down.

About the Author ()

I'm a lifelong Mets fan who loves writing and talking about the Amazins' 24/7. From the Miracle in 1969 to the magic of 1986, and even the near misses in '73 and '00, I've experienced it all - the highs and the lows. I started Mets Merized Online in 2005 to feed my addiction and interact with other passionate Met fans like you. Follow me on Twitter @metsmerized.

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