After being booed by Mets fans for his sluggish Spring Training play, Mets GM Sandy Alderson finally brought the end of an error: the Luis Castillo contract. Signed for a 4 year, $25 million deal in 2007, Castillo has struggled to stay healthy, playing out just one full season in Queens. When he was on the field, he gave the Mets a decent return, batting .274/.366/.324 with 105 RBI, 55 steals, and 188 runs in 365 games. Because the middle infield spots have never carried high expectations for offensive production, Castillo's numbers at the time more than justified his contract. He was very productive when he was on the field, at least until 2010. Castillo went off the cliff last year, hitting just .235 in 86 games.
Unhealthy, unpopular, and underperforming, the Mets decided to escape another year of the 35-year old's woefully deteriorating game and his $6 million price tag. They will pay the entire salary Castillo was guaranteed, so any team who goes after the veteran will only have to pay the pro-rated league minimum to have him. Regardless, no matter where Castillo lands, he is not going to be a significant fantasy contributor.
With no big-time players on the market this time of year, and with the Mets far away from any real shot of contention, they're going to sit back and let their own guys compete for the starting job to replace Castillo. Daniel Murphy and Brad Emaus appear to be the two front runners in the competition, but the problem has been the team hasn't seen enough defensively from Murphy nor have they seen enough offensively from Emaus this spring. Emaus is supposed to be an offense-oriented player, so this may not be worth worrying about, but since the Mets have not been able to see many defensive opportunities for Murphy at second they may be hesitant to give him the first crack at the role. Many in the organization fear Murphy's feet are not quick enough to turn double plays or tough balls, but he does provide a nice left-handed hitting option for the Mets, which is always a valuable commodity.
Emaus, 24, was acquired in the Rule V draft so he will have to be kept on the 25-man roster if the Mets want to keep him. Their likeliness of holding on to Emaus is high, because Mets assistant GM J.P. Ricciardi is very high on him. Ricciardi, the former GM of the Toronto Blue Jays, originally drafted Emaus, so it's a pretty safe bet he wants to see how his guy will pan out at the next level. Emaus has already beaten Castillo in the competition, but Murphy still poses a big challenge. Despite the aforementioned worries about Murphy's game he is an organizational favorite and will be given just about every chance to succeed. On the other hand, Emaus is a more well-rounded player, as instead of being exceptional in one statistical area, he is pretty good or at least average in every area. Emaus is a capable defender but maybe not Gold Glove worthy. He is a solid hitter for average and power but will never win a Silver Slugger. He has decent wheels but will likely never reach 20 or 30+ steals.
Still, last season at AAA Emaus hit .298/.395/.495 with an .890 OPS, pretty hefty numbers at the second base position. Defensively, Emaus is much more sound than Murphy, making no errors at second base last year (but 20 at third base, where he mostly played). Showing that palatable mix of power and speed, the un-hyped sort-of prospect added 10 home runs and 8 steals, showing a skill set not unlike that of Sean Rodriguez, just with higher batting average and a bit less power.
The Mets have no idea in which direction they are going with their second base gig yet. By the end of the year, they may just have Emaus as their starting second baseman. Keep Emaus on your watch list, because if he gets a real chance, he will be a legitimate fantasy baseball option in NL only and maybe even mixed leagues.