Phillies decline to upgrade, sign Castro for bench

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juan castro.jpgBecause the market for shortstops long past their primes was suddenly short an Omar Vizquel, the Phillies simply didn’t dare wait any longer. On just the fifth day of free agency, they agreed to terms with 37-year-old Juan Castro.
Sadly enough, Castro is coming off one of his better offensive seasons, as he hit .277/.311/.339 in 112 at-bats for the Dodgers. The 650 OPS was just a bit off his career-best mark of 678 from 2003. He’s a career .230/.270/.332 hitter in 2,484 at-bats over 15 seasons.
In his prime, Castro was an excellent defensive shortstop, but his bat was still so weak that he’s never received more than 320 at-bats in a season. These days, his range has mostly evaporated. UZR has rated him well below average at shortstop in his limited action there the last two seasons. He can still cover second and third well enough, but so can dozens of minor leaguers capable of running circles around him offensively.
The Phillies will have Castro replace Eric Bruntlett, who also wasn’t much of a shortstop or a hitter. So, it’s not a move that’s going to have any real effect on their ability to make it back to the World Series next year. Omar Quintanilla and Brian Barden have more to offer than Castro and probably would have come cheaper than the $1 million or so Castro is getting, but given that Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins hardly ever sit out when healthy, it probably wasn’t worth spending $2 million or so to bring in a quality backup like Craig Counsell or Juan Uribe. Even if one of the two does get hurt, it’s typically pretty easy and inexpensive to acquire middle infielders during July and August.

Jharel Cotton to undergo Tommy John surgery

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Athletics right-hander Jharel Cotton will undergo Tommy John surgery, per an announcement on Saturday. Cotton initially experienced some elbow soreness during a Cactus League start earlier this week and was officially diagnosed with a strained ulnar collateral ligament and strained flexor muscle on Thursday. He’ll be out of commission until 2019 at the earliest.

This isn’t the first time Cotton has dealt with elbow issues. According to’s Jane Lee, he had screws inserted in his right elbow after sustaining a stress fracture in 2013 and suffered some minor elbow discomfort again last fall. Prior to his diagnosis, the 26-year-old was poised for his third run with the A’s in 2018. He pitched his first full season with the club in 2017, turning in a 5.58 ERA, 3.7 BB/9 and 7.3 SO/9 in 24 starts and 129 innings.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle adds that the team is open to adding pitching depth this spring, though they’ll wait to see if the price goes down on some free agents first. Barring that, right-handed long reliever Andrew Triggs could be tabbed to fill the fifth spot in the rotation.