Free Agent Madness

Dave · November 23, 2004 at 8:29 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Here’s a signing that won’t get much notice but exemplifies why groups of fans on the outside often feel like the “old school” way of doing things is just so far out of touch with reality that it defies logic.

Juan Castro signed a two year, $2 million contract with the Twins. $1 million a year isn’t that much money for a major league player, really. Its only three times the league minimum. Overall, a pretty minor contract in the budget of the Twins. But look at Castro’s career.

1599 major league at-bats. Career line? .226/.269/.331. That’s worse than Ramon Santiago (.234/.303/.317) and far worse than Willie Bloomquist (.268/.329/.355). It’s worse than what Scott Spiezio (.215/.288/.346) hit last year.

The best comparison for Castro’s career offensive performance? The 2003 and 2004 versions of Jeff Cirillo. So let’s not kid ourselves; Juan Castro cannot hit. At all. He’s not even a replacement level hitter. He’s as close to an automatic out as you’re going to find at the major league level.

Now here’s the kicker. The Twins signed him to lock up his age 33 and 34 seasons, where he’s likely to decline, if that’s even possible. Imagine giving a two year contract to Jeff Cirillo right now.

Sure, Juan Castro can play some nice defense. But there isn’t a level of human defensive performance imaginable that could compensate for his abilities at the plate. Even in his prime, his glove was good enough to make him about as good as most Triple-A players. Now, as he slowly slips into being a shell of his former self, he’s going to collect $2 million from the Twins for the right to make their team worse.

Terry Ryan has done a lot of good things in Minnesota. But I just can’t imagine any justification for giving Juan Castro a two year contract. Just brutal.


20 Responses to “Free Agent Madness”

  1. David J Corcoran on November 23rd, 2004 8:41 pm

    Frankly, this is dumb.

    If I were the Twins I would put Cuddyer at 2nd, make a run at Orlando Cabrera if they can afford it, or put Rivas/Bartlett at Short.

    Ojeda and Castro are not major league players. I can’t believe they are even considering putting either of them in a starting role.

  2. Jeff on November 23rd, 2004 8:58 pm

    What I find most amusing about this signing: Castro’s contract has a bunch of incentives for plate appearances.

    Why would you give a defensive specialist that can’t hit an incentive to come to plate often? Don’t you want him as far from the plate as possible? Maybe give him a bonus based on how many times he’s in as a late-inning replacement.

  3. David J Corcoran on November 23rd, 2004 9:02 pm

    Maybe it is so that these incentives are unreachable, but they make Castro feel good.

  4. frightwig on November 23rd, 2004 9:25 pm

    Castro put up a 74-75 OPS+ the last couple years, which isn’t far off what the Twins are used to getting out of Cristian Guzman, and his FP/ZR numbers indicate he should be a defensive upgrade when he’s at SS. Besides, he’s likely to make way for Jason Bartlett as soon as the club is comfortable with the kid’s glovework. Castro is a $1m insurance option and utilityman, is all. And you never know–Nick Punto posted a .340 obp and Augie Ojeda hit .339/.429/.458 in their limited action this year. Even Jose Offerman did a decent job in a part-time role for them, shock of shocks.

    In the meantime, what better alternatives did they have on the free agent market? They don’t have the budget room to go after Cabrera, Renteria, or Garciaparra. Otherwise they’re looking at persuading Barry Larkin to join the AL at age 41, biting their lip and signing Jose Valentin, chasing Pokey Reese….

  5. Andy James on November 23rd, 2004 9:40 pm

    The fact that Castro is just as bad as Guzman has been doesn’t make him a good signing. And, yes, the market of existing major league shortstops is thin, but there must be someone in someone’s minor league system that projects better than Castro. Hell, Fidel Castro would probably outhit him.

  6. Steve on November 23rd, 2004 9:49 pm

    Couldn’t they have claimed Ramon Santiago on waivers and had equivalent offense and defensefor one third the cost? ESPN quoted Terry Ryan:

    “I want to make sure we have people there that can pick up the ball, and I know he can do that,” general manager Terry Ryan said.

    Isn’t that almost verbatim what Bavasi said when the Mariners acquired Santiago?

  7. Jeff on November 23rd, 2004 10:34 pm

    Steve, the difference is that Castro can merely pick up the ball, whereas Santiago can “pick it up and throw it,” according to Bavasi.

    It really sounds like I’m making this up. But I’m not.

  8. Adam S on November 24th, 2004 12:31 am

    It seems overly harsh to talk about Castro’s CAREER numbers when was he was outmatched at 24 – 26 and had no business being in the majors; something the Dodgers figured out the year he was 27.

    He’s been much better (.250/.285/.382) the past two years, which I realize is a back-handed compliment.

    I concur he’s peaked and heading down, but at first glance, this seems much more sane of a contract than Vizquel or Guzman got. I think Castro will outperforms at least one of them next year.

  9. PositivePaul on November 24th, 2004 12:32 am

    Speaking of Fidel – this deal was signed as a “favor” from Terry Ryan to Fidel (Juan’s uncle) after Twins scouts were arrested giving rubber rafts to certain members of the Cuban National Baseball Team.

    Should’ve let ’em extend their stay in Havana, Mr. Ryan…

  10. Jerry on November 24th, 2004 12:37 am

    Hey, at least its not the M’s making these moves. It is funny that every single signing has been bad thus far. I think that the best move this offseason has been the Yomuri Giants signing Gabe Kapler. And even he is way overpaid.

    I guess that it is good that other teams are spending too much money on mediocre or worse players. Hopefully, the M’s will not jump into the fray with another Ibanezesque signing.

  11. NBarnes on November 24th, 2004 12:43 am

    Half the reason everybody fears Corey Koskie is that the Ms doing an Ibanez on him would be both in-character for the Ms and in line with the reason of the offseason.

  12. PositivePaul on November 24th, 2004 1:26 am

    #10 — Unless that Ibanezesque signing is Beltran or Beltre. Possibly even Delgado.

  13. Tod on November 24th, 2004 8:39 am

    Not to pile on, but it wasn’t the $1 million salary that was scary – it was the two years. And he strikes me as Pokey Reese Lite. So as far as alternatives, I’d prefer the original who is a better defender, a year younger, and only slightly more putrid at the plate.

    On Kapler, is anyone else surprised that he signed so quickly? Given the lunacy so far, the dramatic change that playing in Japan will be (did he ask Millar about signer’s remorse?) and the fact that it may well end his MLB career, I can’t believe he bit so soon.

  14. Tod on November 24th, 2004 8:49 am

    And Damian Miller to a three-year deal? He is a 35-year-old catcher. He is a nice player (the best free agent signed so far, off the top of my head), but three years and to the Brewers? This is a very different market than we are used to seeing. Let’s hope the dumb money is finite and is being sucked out, leaving the plums to the patient – and that Bavasi is patient.

  15. Mox Mox on November 24th, 2004 9:26 am

    Why doesn’t Ryan realize he could find 100 kids in the minors who can play defense and not hit–at 1/3 the cost? Maybe Castro brings the so-called intangibles to the clubhouse.

  16. paul mocker on November 24th, 2004 10:32 am

    The league average catcher hit 264/323/416.
    Miller hit 272/339/403.
    Miller’s VORP was about 16, which indicates an average player.
    Yet, he is 5 wins above replacement.

    But, a VORP of 16 does not translate to 5 wins. How come?

    Now, what does this mean for Dan Wilson? Might he now want a deal longer than one year?

  17. paul mocker on November 24th, 2004 10:39 am

    Wilson hit .251 / .305 / .310. He will be 36 years old next season. His comparables include Mike Scioscia and Sandy Alomar Jr. So he isn’t getting a contract for hitting.

    Obviously the M’s need him for defense and tutoring Olivo. He can tutor Olivo in one season. But with the news of Miller’s signing comes a nagging feeling that Bavasi might give him 2years and $4 Million dollars. Holy crap! He made $3.5 Million last year so 2 years/$4M might sound reasonable to Bavasi.

    C’mon prognosticators! What contract will Wilson get?

  18. eponymous coward on November 24th, 2004 10:43 am

    So, I guess that means Willie’s going to get 3.3 million guaranteed over the next 3 years, right, and Pocket Lint will put out an article with quotes about how the M’s were glad to avoid arbitration with a “gritty, hard-nosed player who does the little things right”?

  19. paul mocker on November 24th, 2004 10:46 am

    No way does William Paul Bloomquist get $3.3M.

    I might give him $1M for 1 or 2 seasons only to take a gamble; he is entering his prime years of 27 and 28.

  20. msb on November 24th, 2004 1:17 pm

    Rotoworld’s theory is that Terry Ryan is signing the 25-man roster for two years-plus so that he can take winter 2005 off…