One of my favorite Luis Castillo-to-the-Cubs stories happened 7-8 years ago, when Cubs GM Jim Hendry was supposedly in Montreal, negotiating a contract extension for Castillo, for whom the Cubs were about the acquire. None of it was true, but it made for good conversation on the then-nascent blogs and message boards.
With the Mets having released Castillo and the Cubs having second-base questions, naturally talk has turned to the Cubs signing him to the major-league minimum salary. The Phillies also need second-base help, with Chase Utley ailing.
From what I'm hearing, the Cubs haven't talked seriously internally about Castillo, but that doesn't mean they won't.
I say forget about it.
Castillo (a onetime Kane County Cougar, for you locals) is 35 and well past his prime. More important, the Cubs can fill the need from within and do just as well for the same dough with Darwin Barney.
Castillo is 35 years old, and he’s lost some speed. Making things worse is that he put 70.4 percent of batted balls on the ground last year. With the loss of speed, the BABIP was .259. This is according to fangraphs.com. On that site, Dave Cameron writes: “That's the kind of BABIP you expect from a lumbering fly ball hitter, not a guy who bunts with regularity.” You can expect the BABIP to rise somewhat, but it’s not going to go much above .300, if it reaches that level.
Last season, Castillo had a line of .235/.337/.267. Back in the day, he’d routinely put up OBP numbers in the high .300s. That .337 OBP of a year ago was even helped by a 13 percent walk rate. As far as WAR goes, Castillo was playing at essentially replacement level last year.
Turning to Barney, he has played well this spring while the left-handed hitting Blake DeWitt has struggled afield and at the plate and right-handed hitting Jeff Baker has done fine. Barney, a right-handed hitter, has a spring line of .382/.432/.471 on 13-for-34 hitting. He has 3 doubles, 4 RBI, 3 walks and a strikeout. Before coming up to the Cubs late last year and faring reasonably well, Barney had a line at Class AAA Iowa of .299/.333/.378. His best OBP performance was a .368 in 74 games at Class AA Tennessee in 2009. As of now, Barney looks to have a lock on a backup spot, ahead of the ailing Augie Ojeda (back spasms).
The question I have is whether Barney can’t pull a Ryan Theriot of 2007 and steal a starting job.
Barney, 25, would give the Cubs another homegrown product. He was a fourth-rounder by scouting director Tim Wilken in 2007, Wilken’s second draft with the Cubs. Barney also was a College World Series winner at Oregon State.
The Cubs also value intangibles, and Barney brings a lot of them. With less than two weeks until Opening Day, things could get interesting in Arizona.
As far as the pitching goes, I’d also throw Andrew Cashner into the rotation and cut ties with Carlos Silva. Cashner is 1-1 with a 3.97 ERA and a WHIP of 1.59 this spring. His groundball outs/flyball outs is 3.00. Silva, on the other hand, is 0-2 with a 15.88 ERA and a 2.74 WHIP. His GO/AO ratio is 1.23. Yesterday, he got rocked for 11 hits and 8 runs (5 earned) in 3 innings.
Throw Cashner in there, and you’ve got a rotation of Dempster, Z, Garza, Wells and Cashner. Wells has done everything asked of him and more this spring. A lot of observers wondered why he had to fight for a spot at all, but he’s responded.