There are certain players in New York Mets history remembered for one moment. Good and bad, it’s the legacy they leave.
Luis Castillo is a guy with one of those moments. A dropped third out in a regular season against the New York Yankees left scars on fans. It’s impossible to think about his time on the Mets without remembering this moment.
Originally traded to the Mets in the middle of the 2007 season, Castillo was good enough for the club to bring back as a free agent. We don’t look back at his tenure in New York too fondly. Was he actually a better free agent signing than we remember?
The Mets got more from Luis Castillo than we remember
Castillo’s biggest fault aside from dropping routine pop ups in the Bronx was staying healthy. By the time he got to the Mets, this speedster had been in the league for over a decade. Much of it was spent with the Florida Marlins where Mets fans grew to think of him as a pest. He led the league in stolen bases twice, swiping 62 in 2000 and 48 in 2002. He’d only reach 25 ever again, an accomplishment reached in 2006 during his first year with the Minnesota Twins.
Castillo continued to produce similar numbers during his year and a half with the Twins. He’d regularly hit for a high average, reach base at a strong clip, and do it all without much power at all. He was the ultimate singles hitter.
In those 231 trips to the plate in 2007, Castillo slashed .296/.371/.372 for the Mets. Hoping to get more of the same the following season, the Mets signed him to a four-year deal worth $25 million. It wasn’t an outrageous total for those days.
Castillo played only 87 games in 2008 while slashing just .245/.355/.305. He returned healthy in 2009, hitting .302/.387/.346 for the team. This was more in line for what they signed him to do. Unfortunately, it was the end of his success. He had a similar final season with the club in 2010 as he did in 2008. He appeared in only 86 games.
You may have already figured out a big problem here. Castillo didn’t even make it to Opening Day of his fourth season. It makes this a bust of a free agent signing. However, the numbers weren’t as awful as remembered.
Castillo slashed .274/.366/.324 in 1469 plate appearances for the Mets. If we eliminate the 2007 numbers, he was still a .270/.366/.315 hitter for them in the three seasons after he was a free agent signing and not a trade addition. These aren’t great numbers by any stretch and with all of the missed time it doesn’t save this from becoming one of the weaker free agent signings in the club’s history during that time.
Maybe the difference between Castillo and some other bad signings from this period is that he wasn’t meant to save the Mets. This wasn’t Jason Bay who looked like he’d compete for an MVP. He didn’t fall off a cliff as quickly as Roberto Alomar.
Castillo’s arrival in mid-2007 and the disappointment that followed the franchise throughout his tenure in Queens might be yet another reason why we remember this deal being so bad. In the moment, fans felt cheated. Looking back, they had so many bigger problems.