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With multiyear deal, 2B Castillo to stay with Mets

11/19/2007

NEW YORK -- The Mets completed their deal with Luis Castillo
on Monday, securing an everyday second baseman. Now, they must find
a No. 1 catcher and a starting pitcher to replace Tom Glavine.

Castillo passed his physical and finalized a $25 million,
four-year contract with the Mets, who acquired him from Minnesota
on July 30.

"I'm happy," Castillo said on a conference call. "I know we
have a good team."

The three-time All-Star batted .296 for New York with 10 stolen
bases, 20 RBIs and 37 runs in 50 games. He hit .304 with 18 RBIs
and 54 runs in 85 games for the Twins.

A three-time Gold Glove winner, the 32-year-old Castillo also
provided solid defense despite playing on a sore right knee that
limited his speed.

Castillo had an arthroscopic procedure to clean out his knee
after the season and is expected to be 100 percent healthy by early
January, according to his agents, Sam and Seth Levinson. They said
it was simply scar tissue that caused the discomfort.

"We feel that he should be fine going forward," New York
general manager Omar Minaya said.

Castillo gets a $1 million signing bonus and salaries of $6
million each of the next four years.

A switch-hitter who lacks home run power, Castillo was one of
the few Mets who played well as the team collapsed down the
stretch. He batted .316 in September, but New York squandered a
seven-game lead in the NL East and missed the playoffs.The Mets are excited about having two speedy switch-hitters at
the top of the lineup in Castillo and All-Star shortstop Jose
Reyes, who bats leadoff.

"It's kind of an offensive model that we've strived to get
to," Minaya said.

New York also explored signing 2006 World Series MVP
David Eckstein to play second, though he's been a shortstop almost his
entire major league career.

Team executives took Eckstein to dinner in Connecticut last
week, but his agent asked for a four-year deal worth between $9
million and $10 million annually, according to a person familiar
with the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity because
details of the talks weren't made public.

Instead of pursuing Eckstein, the Mets turned their attention to
bringing back Castillo.

"I've always been a very big Eckstein fan," Minaya said. "He
was one of the guys that we definitely considered."

Glavine left the Mets on Sunday and returned to the
Atlanta Braves, his original team. The 303-game winner, who lives in the
Atlanta area, was given an $8 million, one-year contract by the
Mets' division rival after turning down a $13 million option to
stay with New York and receiving a $3 million buyout.

The 41-year-old discussed his options with his family and
decided he wanted to pitch for the Braves next year or call it
quits.

"If it was anywhere else, I think honestly I was going to
retire because I didn't want to be away from home anymore," he
said.

The left-hander said he discussed a potential Roger Clemens
"family plan" with Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon that
could have allowed Glavine to return home between starts. But the
pitcher wasn't sure how comfortable he or Wilpon would have been
with such an arrangement.

Glavine flopped in his final outing with New York, chased in the
first inning of a blowout loss to Florida that eliminated the Mets
from playoff contention on the last day of the regular season.

"I was disappointed and embarrassed, and disbelief -- all those
things," he said. "It's still hard to believe that our season
ended the way that it did."

Still, he pitched 200 1/3 innings in his fifth season with New
York, going 13-8 with a 4.45 ERA.

"We are going to miss his quality starts and we are going to
miss his innings," Minaya said.

Glavine's departure left the Mets searching for a durable
starting pitcher in a thin market. Free agents Livan Hernandez and
Carlos Silva are considered possibilities. New York also might look
to make a trade.

As compensation for losing Glavine, the Mets get Atlanta's
first-round draft choice (No. 18 overall) next year and a sandwich
pick between the first and second round.

New York still has a hole at catcher after recently breaking off
talks with free agent Yorvit Torrealba, who was set to replace
Paul Lo Duca as the team's regular starter. The sides reached a
preliminary agreement last week on a $14.4 million, three-year
contract that was subject to a physical.

The Mets said Saturday they had ended negotiations with
Torrealba, leading to speculation that a medical exam left them
with concerns about his throwing shoulder. Torrealba, who helped
Colorado reach the World Series this year, missed nearly three
months in 2006 with a strained right shoulder.

"I'm just going to say that we couldn't get a deal done,"
Minaya said.

New York did re-sign backup catcher Ramon Castro last week, and
he could get more playing time than he has in the past.

Notes
Minaya said he left a message with Lo Duca's agent. …
Castillo will donate at least $200,000 from his new contract to
charity and the Mets will match the figure, his agents said.