He doesn't have a beard. But the Phillies apparently think Juan Castro can replace Eric Bruntlett in other regards. A source familiar with talks between the club and the veteran infielder said the two sides have agreed in principle on a one-year major league deal with a club option, pending a physical that likely will not occur until Castro returns from vacation next week.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. could not immediately be reached for comment.
Castro hit .277 with a .311 on base percentage in just 112 at-bats for the Dodgers last season. The Phillies were looking for a player willing to accept minimal playing time but also capable of filling in at short stop on an extended basis. On paper, Castro fits both criteria. He started 29 games last season, hitting .266 with a .300 on base percentage in those games. He also went 6-for-18 as a sub, including 3-for-5 with one strikeout as a pinch hitter.
But Castro's ability to play short stop is his biggest attribute. For an idea of how slim the pickings are in that department, consider Omar Vizquel, another veteran short stop who was a free agent. Over his last two seasons, Vizquel's numbers aren't a whole lot different than Castro's. Castro hit .227 with a .569 OPS in 298 plate appearances for the Reds, Orioles and Dodgers. Vizquel hit .239 with a .594 OPS in 595 plate appearances for the Giants and Rangers. Vizquel recently signed a one year deal with the White Sox for a reported $1.375 million, which is nearly double the $700,000 that Castro earned with the Dodgers last season.
Last year, manager Charlie Manuel said he would love to have a bench player who might fill in for Chase Utley without presenting much of an offensive drop off. Castro would not seem to be that player, but I don't think the Phillies are looking at him as such.
Keep in mind that two candidates to replace Pedro Feliz at third base are Placido Polanco and Mark DeRosa, both of whom have played extensively at second base. And while the Phillies do not view Greg Dobbs as an everyday third baseman, they do contend - at least publicly - that they are comfortable starting him there occasionally. Last year, Dobbs hit .309 with a .829 OPS in the 28 games in which he started.