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Meet: Luis Castillo

I've been as giddy as a 6-year old on Christmas morning...

...but let's try and find some perspective, shall we?

What We Lost

In brief, we lost Travis Bowyer and Scott Tyler, two young pitchers who more than likely would have been bolstering our bullpen at some point this season.  Bowyer saw brief time in Minnesota during a September callup, throwing 9 2/3 innings, striking out 12, walking 3, allowing 3 home runs, and surrending 10 hits en route to a 5.59 ERA.  Fantastic strikeout rate, good velocity on the fastball...not too much else to be excited about.  In the future, absolutely, he has all the potential in the world to become an imposing presence.  That potential was the centerpiece of our trade for our new second baseman.

Tyler saw no time at The Show in 2005, but if he wasn't on the opening day roster in the spring, chances were he's be showing himself before the season wore into the dog days of summer.

What We Gained

First, we gained a few million dollars on the payroll.  Before anyone says "Castillo's salary is just replacing Jones'", no, it isn't.  Tacking Castillo's salary puts us precipitously close to a $60 million dollar payroll if it doesn't push us over.  With Jones, we'd  be closer to $70 million.  With a payroll of $55-$58 million the past few seasons, there was no salary for Jones on the books coming into this offseason.  This tells us that Castillo's acquisition is a conscious decision by management to add to the payroll.

Castillo has also won awards for his defensive eptitude, capturing consecutive Gold Gloves in 2003 and 2004.  In 2006, he'll be 30 years old for virtually the entire season, which means that even for a second baseman he's still in his physical prime.  With Mauer behind the plate, Castillo at second and Hunter patrolling center field, Minnesota will be one of the strongest teams up the middle in 2006.

In Luis (v 2.0), we also have a switch-hitter who can bat the top of the order.  Historically he hits left handers better than right handers (something we're not used to at all), and has good speed.  To switch things up, don't be too surprised if Gardenhire experiments with leading off Castillo and batting Stewart second in front of Mauer.  Otherwise, if things remain status-quo, the top five hitters will be Stewart, Castillo, Mauer, Morneau, Hunter.  This isn't bad.  (Food for thought:  Castillo, Mauer, Stewart, Morneau, Hunter?)

Things To Be Excited About

You mean, apart from the defense?  Apart from the switch-hitting?  Apart from a solid presence at the top of the order?  Castillo's career OBP is .370.  He has 245 stolen bases since 1999.  He's had more doubles than errors in the same timeframe, which isn't bad for a middle infielder.  To make it sound even better, he's committed only 13 errors in 2004 and 205 combined.  Range?  Check.  Arm?  Check.  Accuracy?  Check.  Pivot?  Check.

Take a look at these numbers:  .384, .418, .344, .364, .381, .373, .391.  These are his OBP numbers for the last seven years.  Excuse me while I get a napkin to wipe the drool off the keyboard.  Let's not get ahead of ourselves and say this trade puts us over the top, but it's a trade that makes us better, makes us more dangerous, and it's going to make it easier for the Twins to score runs.

Reason For Pause

As excited as I am, there are a couple of things that will be interesting to look for.

First, Castillo stole 193 bases from 1999 to 2002, averaging just over 48 per season.  From 2003-2005, he's swiped only 52 for an average of 17.  In 2005 he stole only 10 bases.  This implies that Castillo has lost a step as he moved into his later 20's.  In fact, before the trade last week, I read a report stating that many GM's around the league held concerns that Castillo had "...lost his burst."  I can't say I've seen enough of him to make that judgement myself, but the numbers certainly are there to support it.

Second, he holds minimal power.  As a middle infielder this isn't a typical prerequesite, but it's an issue the Twins need to deal with in the offseason.  A number of boxes on our offseason checklist were marked following this trade, but the power box isn't one of them.  This is still a very serious concern.

Finally, a couple of small concerns.  It will be interesting to watch and see how he responds to an American League style of play, and how he responds to seeing a number of pitchers for the first time.   Also, in 2005 he played his fewest number of games and innings since becoming an everyday player in 1999.  Hopefully this isn't the start of a trend.

In the End...

...what we've acquired in Castillo can't be the last thing we do to improve our club.  It's a better start than I could have asked for, being I expected us to pick up a Graffanino or Mueller-type player as opposed to a 3-time All Star ('02, '03, '05).  One big updrage more to go.

The Winter Meetings are just getting underway, and there's been lots of talking for the first day.  I'm looking for the uncompromisable Mr. Ryan to pull another hitter out of his bag of tricks.  Number one on my list is Kevin Mench, although I've heard the Rangers are still asking for Liriano as the main piece in any trade.  That, my dear Rangers, isn't going to happen.

For a better analysis than this off-the-cuff post, check out a great one over at Aaron Gleeman. It's definately worth your time.