Mets send two minor leaguers to Twins for Castillo

Updated: July 31, 2007, 8:27 PM ET
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- The NL East-leading New York Mets neatly filled a big hole at second base, acquiring three-time All-Star Luis Castillo from the Minnesota Twins for a pair of prospects Monday.

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Mark Teixeira-to-Atlanta impresses a lot more than Luis Castillo-to-the-Mets, as this year's trade deadline becomes a joust between the three NL East contenders, Eric Karabell writes. Blog Insider

The 31-year-old Castillo will give the Mets three switch-hitters at the top of their lineup when injured Carlos Beltran returns and brings speed and a .304 average to a batting order already topped by major league stolen base leader Jose Reyes. Castillo twice was the NL steals leader, though bad knees have limited his running in recent seasons.

A three-time Gold Glove winner who still has above-average range, Castillo also should solidify the defense in a standout infield with Reyes at shortstop, David Wright at third and Carlos Delgado at first. Ruben Gotay had been playing second since Jose Valentin broke a bone in his right leg when he fouled off a pitch at Dodger Stadium on June 21.

Minnesota gets catcher Drew Butera, who will report to Double-A New Britain, and outfielder Dustin Martin, who will go to Class-A Fort Myers. The deal, which came together in less than 24 hours, was completed one day before the deadline for making trades without waivers.

"With Valentin going down, this is a move we need to do," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said. "For me, it's important to have a guy to the right of Delgado to cover ground."

Luis Castillo

Castillo

Second Base
New York Mets

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2007 Season Stats
GM HR RBI R OBP AVG
85 0 18 54 .356 .304

Beltran, who has not played in nearly a week because of a strained oblique muscle, was unlikely to travel with the team to Milwaukee in advance of Tuesday night's series opener and appeared headed for the disabled list.

Also, the Mets and Cincinnati discussed a possible deal that would send backup first baseman Jeff Conine to New York.

Castillo, who is making $5.75 million this season, can become a free agent after the World Series. He has only nine stolen bases in 13 attempts and just 29 walks in 349 at-bats with 11 doubles, three triples and 18 RBIs, but he has been one of only a handful of consistent hitters for the Twins this year.

"He was going to be a guy that this winter we were probably going to look at as a free agent," Minaya said. "Now we have a better opportunity to look at him."

The Mets, who tied the crosstown Yankees for the best record in baseball and were one win from the World Series last year, led the surging Philadelphia Phillies by 3 games and the Atlanta Braves by 4 games in the NL East race when the day began.

"The division is going to be tough. The schedule is going to be tough," Minaya said. "So we just wanted to let the players know we're doing the best we can to give you guys an opportunity to win."

Twins general manager Terry Ryan said he's not giving up on the season by shedding salaries of pending free agents. The defending AL Central champions were seven games behind the Detroit Tigers in the division race and 6 games back of the Cleveland Indians in the wild-card standings when the day began, but they were only two games above .500 and struggling to find the offensive spark they used to go 96-66 in 2006.

"I'm not feeling too good, because I like the team. I think it can do a lot, and I had fun last year," said Castillo, who came in a December 2005 trade with the Florida Marlins.

"It's a little hard, but I need to put it out of my mind and go over there and do my thing, do the best I can do," Castillo said.

Butera is batting a combined .231 with six homers and 26 RBIs this year at Double-A Binghamton of the Eastern League and Class A St. Lucie of the Florida State League. He's the son of former Twins catcher Sal Butera. Martin is hitting a combined .289 with five homers and 52 RBIs for St. Lucie and the Gulf Coast League Mets.

The Twins recalled infielder Alexi Casilla to replace Castillo, though he wasn't able to make it in time to join Monday night's lineup against the Kansas City Royals. Casilla hit .233 with two RBIs and four stolen bases in 14 games earlier this year, showing plenty of promise but also had several rough moments in the field.

With Casilla, current third baseman Nick Punto and top prospect Matt Tolbert, Ryan said he's satisfied with what the team has at second and third for the future. He also said he was comfortable enough with Casilla that the Twins can still stay in the playoff chase despite losing their leadoff hitter.

"No, we're not giving up at all," Ryan said. "We're six-and-a-half games back, and we're better than we were last week. If we didn't think we could absorb this, we certainly wouldn't have done it."

The clubhouse was quiet while players and coaches came up for hugs and handshakes with Castillo, and the Twins certainly weren't happy to see one of their best players go.

"That's acceptable, and that's expected and I know that happens within the confines of the clubhouse, but I have a job to do," Ryan said.

Manager Ron Gardenhire understood, echoing his boss's insistence that the team was not giving up on contending in 2007.

"He's not dumping. He's rearranging, maybe to try to find someone that might help us," Gardenhire said.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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