Those who were hoping for an Opening Day miracle in the form of a healthy Chase Utley are going to be sorely disappointed. The signing of veteran second baseman, Luis Castillo, to a minor league deal means that Utley may be down for a long time.
This move seems like the Phillies are taking out the Mets trash in the hope of turning it into treasure. But Castillo was just released from the Mets for poor performance and a poor attitude. The move cost the Mets $6 million to eat Castillo’s contract. With that in mind, they must have wanted him gone very badly.
Once upon a time, Castillo was a very good player. But this 35-year old is coming off a season where he hit only .235 with 17 RBI and played just 86 games due to injuries.
And guess what body part gives Castillo the most issues? His legs, more specifically knees, ankles and feet, have been trouble for Castillo for many years now. So the Phillies are trying to replace a second baseman with a bad knee with another second baseman with a bad knee?
There are at least four guys already in camp with the Phillies who can replace Utley temporarily. This includes Wilson Valdez, Michael Martinez, Josh Barfield and Pete Orr. All have hit well, especially Valdez who is batting .419 in 43 at-bats.
But the Castillo contract is low-risk as the Phillies have to pay him less only $414,000 if he makes the 25-man roster. However, can they accurately assess Castillo’s play with only nine games to go?
This move stinks of desperation from a team that has maxed out its payroll. And it also does not bode well for the present or future of Utley.
Clearly, the knee issue is much worse than anticipated. And the fact that surgery has not been done yet is an even bigger red flag. If the Phillies are so worried that surgery could make matters worse, then Utley’s future, even beyond 2011, is a huge question mark too.
Hang on, Phillies fans. This is going to be a very long and very strange trip through the 2011 season.
Photo by Eric Kilby, Wikimedia Commons