Phillies sign Mets castoff Luis Castillo to minor league deal

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Cut loose by the Mets last week despite still being owed $6 million for this season, Luis Castillo has reportedly signed a minor-league contract with the Phillies.

World-renowned Castillo hater Jon Heyman naturally hates the move and an awful lot of Phillies fans seem to agree, but given the injuries to Chase Utley and Placido Polanco they can certainly use some infield depth and as non-guaranteed, $400,000 investments go Castillo is a perfectly reasonable pickup.

He’s a shell of the player Omar Minaya traded for and then signed to a four-year, $25 million deal and the deterioration of Castillo’s once-excellent speed has magnified his career-long lack of power, but last season he drew more walks (39) than strikeouts (25) while posting a .337 on-base percentage that was solidly above the NL average of .328 and got on base at a .366 clip during his entire four-year run with the Mets.

There are far worse backup infielders and the Phillies currently have Wilson Valdez penciled into the Opening Day lineup despite his career-high offensive numbers being no better than Castillo’s worst. If the Phillies deem Castillo washed up they can cut bait and essentially be out nothing while the Mets pay him $1 million a month. And if he still has a little gas left in the tank, they added some solid infield depth at basically no cost.

Cardinals encourage players not to hide injuries

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In Major League Baseball, players are routinely pressured to play through injury and pain. Sometimes it’s just a minor ache, and sometimes it’s a very serious injury. The pressure comes from everywhere: the players themselves, their peers, coaches, front offices, media, and fans. Players who develop a reputation for landing on the disabled list are described as “soft” and “fragile.” Players who battle through the pain get talked about as “gritty” and “dedicated.”

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals are trying to encourage their players to be more honest about their health. The culture surrounding this is tough to change, but manager Mike Matheny wants his players to come to him if “anything that is off.” As Goold notes, Alex Reyes and Matt Bowman revealed they were, in Bowman’s words, not “entirely forthcoming.” Carlos Martinez said he pitched tentatively because he was “scared” of re-injuring himself. Matheny also called pitcher Michael Wacha “a great liar” when talking about his arm health.

Matt Carpenter has also played through injury and takes pride in it. He’s an example of the old mentality the club is trying to pierce through. Caarpenter said, “I’m a believer in if you’re getting paid to do a job and you’re capable of doing the job — even if it’s 85 percent of your best — I feel you have the obligation to be out there. That is the mentality I’ve always used. I could have very easily, at times last year, sat on the [disabled list], but I felt like I could still go out and do my job.”

Goold points out that players approach dealing with health issues differently depending on where they’re at in their careers. A young player who just got called up has pressure to stay in the big leagues and appear in games, so he may not want to address a health issue. A player who has already secured a multi-year contract may have less pressure on him and thus may be more willing to come to the trainer’s room.

I’ve long believed that player health will be the next arena in which front offices will separate themselves from the pack. Analytics had been that battleground for a while, but with every club now having an analytics department in some capacity, front offices will have to find value in new ways. Limiting the amount of time that players miss due to injury would be a significant boost for a team and it will start with players being forthcoming about what’s bothering them rather than trying to fight through pain.