With multiyear deal, 2B Castillo to stay with Mets

Updated: November 19, 2007, 9:45 PM ET
Associated Press

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.

Luis Castillo

Castillo

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.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press