Let's clear up a few misconceptions about this Luis Castillo deal:
1) The Phillies owe Castillo nothing unless he makes the major league roster. This is a minor league deal. They have 10 days to look at him, explore other moves, and ponder how he fits into the Opening Day roster, which does not need to be set until March 31. Depending on how the contract is structured, Castillo could also start the season in extended spring training (he could have an out clause that allows him to become a free agent if he isn't on the active roster by a certain date).
Amaro did say Castillo will not be in the Phillies minor league system -- "He's not going to the minors," were the GM's exact words -- so this is essentially a brief try-out.
"It's kind of a low-risk situation for us," Amaro said. "We'll see if he's somebody who can contribute to our club."
So, to repeat: nothing is guaranteed right now. The Phillies are essentially getting a free look at Castillo. I don't think they would have brought him in if they did not think he was a serious candidate to make the 25-man roster. And if they decide he can help the club, they will owe him only the veteran minimum of $414,000. Remember, Castillo is getting $6 million this year regardless of how much the Phillies guarantee him.
Worst case scenario, the Phillies never end up purchasing Castillo's contract and adding him to the roster, and he becomes a free agent, and the Phillies are out no dollars.
So what can the Phillies see in 10 days that their scouts haven't seen over the last couple years and through this spring training?
"I think it's best to get him into camp and get familiar with him and get to know him as a person," Amaro said.
2) Brian Schneider spoke in glowing terms about Castillo today. There's no doubt the second baseman suffered from an image problem during his time with the Mets. But Schneider said there was no image problem inside the clubhouse.
"I just think it's New York," Schneider said of the issues fans had with Castillo. "He never disrespected anyone in the clubhouse. To me, he was a great teammate."
Schneider labelled Castillo as "quiet," but "a great guy."
Asked if he approved of the move, he responded, "Obviously, it can't hurt. It's kind of a risk/reward thing. He has a chance of being a real good pick-up."
Castillo posted great contact and on base numbers in 142 games in 2009, but was hampered by foot injuries last season. Scouts who have watched him this spring have said he has lost a step both offensively and defensively. That said, those scouts weren't necessarily comparing him to the other infielders they have in camp.
"I think the change will be good for him," Schneider said. "I respect him as a player, but I respect him more as a person. I think he'll fit in great in this clubhouse."
Said Amaro: "He's a veteran guy who's had some success in the past. He takes pitches, can do some things on the bases, extend an inning offensively."
Amaro acknowledged the conventional wisdom that Castillo's defense is not what it once was. But the Phillies aren't asking the guy to be better than Chase Utley. They are, at minimum, asking him to be better than the fifth guy on their bench, which right now could be a 28-year-old Rule 5 pick who has never played in the majors, or a guy like Josh Barfield.
Another former Castillo teammate, pitcher Brad Penny, took to Twitter to defend him after the Mets released him. Penny said the Mets made a bad move in releasing Castillo.
Amaro said all the reports from his people have been positive.
"All of our indications from people we talked to were very positive about the guy," Amaro said.
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