(Long Island, N.Y.) In less than a week, the New York Mets fixed two leftover mistakes from the Omar Minaya era that set them back years. The fact that it cost them $18 million aside, releasing Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez gave new meaning to the saying, ‘addition by subtraction.’
There was no way that the team would have headed north with either one or both of the dismal duo and even a decent performance during Spring Training by Castillo wasn’t enough to erase the bad memories. Heading into camp, new manager Terry Collins said that second base was an open competition between the incumbent Castillo and a list that seemed to include anyone who ever played an inning at the position.
Although he outhit the rest of the unimpressive bunch, Castillo was given his walking papers last week and was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday. Before anyone begins to question the move, they are only paying him the league minimum and the Mets are on the hook for over $5 million.
Collins bent over backwards for Perez, first giving him a shot at a spot in the starting rotation and then as a lefty specialist out of the bullpen. The erratic southpaw took a pounding in both roles and was shown the door three days after Castillo. It remains to be seen who – if anyone – will give him another shot.
Both moves were inevitable and should have been made during the offseason. The organization held on to a futile hope that any measure of success in the Grapefruit League would have made them marketable, but that was an unlikely scenario. New general manager Sandy Alderson was able to convince ownership that it was worth the money to cut them, even in their current financial situation.
In the case of Perez, he will receive $12 million in the last installment of the three-year, $36 million contract that Minaya signed him to prior to the 2009 season. Acquired as a throw-in in a 2006 trade with Pittsburgh, Perez pitched fairly well for the Mets but certainly not enough to command a big money deal.
In two full seasons in New York, Perez won 15 and 10 games, respectively. Always considered wild, Perez gave 105 batters a free pass in his walk year (no pun intended). He led the league in that dubious category and that apparently meant nothing to Minaya.
Since then, he went a combined 3-9 with a 6.81 ERA. What made it even harder to swallow is that Perez turned down Minaya’s first offer of three years at $30 million. The former GM outbid himself when he upped it another six million and Perez was all too happy to come back to Flushing.
Although the money the team will eat from Castillo’s contract is half of Perez’s amount, it will still be tough to swallow. When the Mets acquired him from Minnesota at the trading deadline in 2007, Castillo was already a banged up 32-year-old that went from leading the league five years earlier in steals with 48 to managing only nine at that point. (He finished with 19 steals total that season.) Regardless, Minaya felt compelled to sign him to a four-year, $24 million deal.
Unfortunately, the misfortune of the Mets was pointed at him a great deal because of frequent injuries and inconsistent play. This happened even when he was performing better. Take 2009, for instance. Castillo was fairly healthy and played in 142 games, had 20 steals and hit over .300. But he will be remembered for dropping a pop-up at Yankee Stadium and giving away what would have been a Subway Series victory.
It may have been an expensive spring for a team that cannot afford any more financial troubles, but it was well spent to wash away the bad memories and stigma that Castillo and Perez carried into the clubhouse.