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.

Shohei Otani may come to the United States after 2017

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Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?

Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.

It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.

Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.