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Thursday, March 3, 2011
Sandy stands by Ollie-Castillo decision

By Adam Rubin
ESPNNewYork.com

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson clogged up a pair of 40-man roster spots all offseason by deciding to bring left-hander Oliver Perez and second baseman Luis Castillo to camp.

Yet Alderson mostly got away with the decision unharmed.

Yes, the Mets dropped Chris Carter because they needed to free a 40-man roster spot that might have been available had Perez or Castillo been dumped. But Carter did not appear in the new regime's plans anyway because of his one-dimensional game that was ill-suited for the National League.

Luis Castillo
Keep Luis Castillo as a highly paid bench player? Not likely.

Meanwhile, Ryota Igarashi, also removed from the roster, cleared waivers because no one wanted to touch his $1.75 million salary. Outfielder Jason Pridie cleared waivers after being removed from the roster, too. Pridie had the right to declare free agency, but opted to stay with the organization and come to major league camp as a non-roster invitee.

If anything, the only real consequence of the decision to hold on to Perez and Castillo was that it prevented the Mets from conceivably protecting two more prospects in the Rule 5 draft. Now, right-hander Elvin Ramirez, who flirts with 100 mph, might be lost to the Washington Nationals via the same process that landed second baseman Brad Emaus and right-hander Pedro Beato with the Mets.

The justification for carrying the maligned duo: Alderson wanted to take a firsthand look at Perez and Castillo rather than rely on the opinion of the masses -- even if, in this case, the prevailing opinion that the two ought to be dumped is valid.

Now, given that Alderson has gone this far with the two, it makes little sense to release them this early in camp. Opening Day is not until April 1. And the only harm their presence brings is that every at-bat or inning they log comes at the expense of someone else's preparation.

In an odd way -- since they're making a combined $18 million -- Alderson is getting a free look at the two players.

"I think things can be demonstrated during the course of spring training. Absolutely," Alderson insisted. "For one thing, it is a time for familiarizing myself with players. The same is true of the manager and the coaching staff. But I think, also, one never knows what will happen over the course of an offseason, positively or negatively. So I think it's important just to be able to observe for a period of time."

In the end, keeping Perez cannot be justified, because he cannot serve as a lefty-on-lefty specialist if he has a propensity for walks and is registering only 83-84 mph with his fastball. And given that the front office wants to demonstrate its smarts, you have to figure Alderson & Co. would keep Emaus -- whom they like because he displayed some power in the minors with Toronto last season (15 homers) while walking more than striking out.

That means they ultimately would drop Castillo, who has no value as a bench player.

Yet even if that is the ultimate resolution, Alderson objected to any characterization that he clogged up two valuable spots all winter.

"I don't interpret it that we tied up two roster spots," the GM said. "We've said from the outset that these two guys deserve an opportunity to show what they can do and earn a spot on the 25-man roster. That's still our plan. We'll see how it goes."

Given the fan animosity because of the ownership financial situation, carrying Perez or Castillo into the regular season would further intensify any disconnect between the ballclub and its fans.

In the past, the Mets have been too reliant on public opinion in making decisions. (They regularly pursued high-profile free agents during the past decade because those signings would have a positive impact on ticket sales. The baseball merits were not always the sole criteria.) Yet in the case of Perez and Castillo, taking into account fan distaste for those players certainly appears warranted in concluding they ought to be released.

Even Alderson acknowledged fans have some voice in such matters.

Said the GM: "I've said in the past that I often take into account what the fans think. Not that it is determinative of any decision, but it's something that ought to at least be taken into account often."