Wednesday, July 31, 2013

20 Minnesota Twins Trades: A Tale of Two Castillo Trades

We're in the 2005 off-season and the Twins were buyers!  It's true.  The Twins were looking to add a quality piece to supplement their team and fill a hole after a disappointing 2005 season. 

The Trade:  BREAKDOWN!

The Minnesota Twins traded Scott Tyler and Travis Bowyer to the Florida Marlins for Luis Castillo.
Tyler never played an MLB game, and was out of pro baseball at the age of 25.  Bowyer threw 9.2 innings for the Twins in 2005, but never donned a Marlins uniform.  In fact, he never played in the Marlins organization at all.  He was out of pro baseball after that 2005 season.

Castillo was considered a major get.  He was a good second baseman who could run, hit and walk.  In 2006, he posted a .296/.358/.370 triple slash, good for a 91 OPS+.  He did get on base and he did steal 25 bases.  It was all good for a 2.3 WAR.  Of course, he was the second baseman of the future as well, right?  More on that later.

How did I feel at the time?

I'll admit, I was excited.  The Twins were selling off Minor League "assets" for a guy who could hit for a high average and steal bases.  Plus, he played second base, so Luis Rivas was nowhere near my favorite team.  It was all very alluring. 

Why make the trade?

"The Twins have spent the offseason looking to improve offensively and defensively. On Friday, they made one acquisition that addresses both needs."

That's according to this story.  Terry Ryan agreed:

"I know people don't know a lot about him in our market," Ryan conceded. "But I know people in the National League have a good appreciation for him. He can run. He takes good at-bats. He puts the ball in play but isn't afraid to walk. He's the type of guy expected to maintain because he's only 30 years old."

It seems like he is trying to justify the trade.  All he really needed to say was "we decided to spend some extra money and we gave away nothing to get him, and he's good."

Mike Redmond was also impressed:

"He's probably the best second baseman I've ever played with or seen play," Redmond said from his home in Spokane, Wash. "He'll be even better playing on the Astroturf. He comes ready to play and he'll give you everything he has. Our pitchers will love having him back there."

He then went out onto the field and took batting practice while just wearing just his cap and batting gloves.  Once done, he added more:

"I'm excited and pumped I'll get to play with Luis again," Redmond said. "He'll be great in Minnesota. I think fans will love him."

I think the fans did like him, but Castillo didn't have the charisma to be loved.  Redmond certainly seemed to love him. 


For me, the only thing keeping this trade from full-fledged overrated transaction territory is the players who the Twins gave up to get Castillo.  The fact that neither guy played an inning for Florida is significant.  Castillo was a part of the second Florida fire sale and the Twins grabbed him for nothing.  However, he was a slightly overpaid player who was on the downside of his career.  That doesn't mean he wasn't productive for the Twins, but he was hardly a major piece added to a potential Championship team.  He was fine, but little more. 

But wait, there's more!

It's 2007 and the the Twins are now sellers!  What a world!  It was the middle of that 2007 season and they were tired of their new toy.  Why not try to save some cash and pick up a couple new Minor Leaguers?

The Trade:  BREAKDOWN!

The Minnesota Twins traded Luis Castillo to the New York Mets for Dustin Martin and Drew Butera
Dustin Martin became a Rochester lifer, giving them three seasons of relatively uninspiring play.  Butera is currently the Twins' fans whipping boy, but has provided good defense as a back-up catcher over a few seasons with the Twins.

Castillo finished the 2007 season well enough to earn a four-year deal from the Mets, through 2011.  He made over $6 million each season, but didn't finish out that contract as a member of the Mets' active roster.  In fact, he alternated good seasons with bad in New York and retired after the 2010 season. 

How did I feel at the time?

Crud.  I guess all good things come to an end.  Castillo had been everything I had hoped he would be.  He hit for average, got on base and stole a few bases.  The worst part of this trade was how the aftermath affected Johan Santana.  I loved Santana and this trade specifically upset him.  Therefore, it upset me too. 

Why make the trade?

According to this story, the trade made sense because Castillo was easy to replace in-house:

With Casilla, current third baseman Nick Punto and top prospect Matt Tolbert, Ryan said he's satisfied with what the team has at second and third for the future. He also said he was comfortable enough with Casilla that the Twins can still stay in the playoff chase despite losing their leadoff hitter.

Well, Casilla nearly replaced Castillo, but he fell a "t" and an "o" short.  He did have an extra "a" though.  Now, the idea made sense.  Casilla was a somewhat promising player and Castillo wasn't really all that special at this point.  Casilla was loads cheaper and would be team-controlled for a few years.  If he faltered, Punto was right there to step in.  Matt Tolbert looked like a bird and was never worth a roster spot. 

More from Ryan:

"No, we're not giving up at all," Ryan said. "We're six-and-a-half games back, and we're better than we were last week. If we didn't think we could absorb this, we certainly wouldn't have done it."

The clubhouse was quiet while players and coaches came up for hugs and handshakes with Castillo, and the Twins certainly weren't happy to see one of their best players go.

"That's acceptable, and that's expected and I know that happens within the confines of the clubhouse, but I have a job to do," Ryan said.

I agree with Ryan here.  He thought there was a suitable replacement, so he dealt off an overpaid and redundant player.  Other players were unhappy, and rightfully so, but Ryan has to make the moves that he feels make the team better in the short and long term.  He can't let his job be dictated by players who know a whole lot less about running a team than he does. 

Plus, Gardy was on board:

"He's not dumping. He's rearranging, maybe to try to find someone that might help us," Gardenhire said.

There was no concurrent move.  This was a salary dump, but maybe a bit justified based on Castillo's performance. 

There was the whole Johan Santana portion of this trade.  I'm not going to include his quotes, but here's a link to a really interview with Santana.  He does not pull punches and in reading this, I can't say I'm surprised that he didn't continue his career in Minnesota.  I like that he spoke his mind. 


Castillo wasn't anything special to begin with.  Really, the first Castillo trade was more symbolic than impactful.  It showed that the Twins wanted to win and would buy the players they thought could help them do so.  In 2007, the second Castillo trade showed that it was business as usual.  Trade away a expensive, veteran player to save some cash. 

I can see why Santana was upset, but Castillo was hardly the player to make his points in regards to.  Castillo was overpaid.  He could be reasonably replaced with cheaper players.  At least, in theory.  The Twins really haven't replaced him at second, and it's now 2013.  Maybe Brian Dozier will finally lay the Castillo demons to rest.  Santana did have a point though.  If the Twins are constantly looking to the future, when does the future become the present?   

Who won the WAR?

Castillo with the Twins:  3.6 WAR
Castillo with the Mets:  2.9 WAR
Butera with the Twins:  -1.2 WAR

WAR won by the Mets; nice work Butera, you dingus.

One Sentence Summary

The Luis Castillo trades were more symbolic of greater organizational issues than what Luis Castillo ultimately provided and then took with him to New York.  

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