Phillies Ink 2B Luis Castillo

As first reported by Jim Salisbury last night, and since confirmed by just about everyone else this morning, second baseman Luis Castillo has signed a minor-league deal with the Phillies, just four days after being released by the New York Mets.

Sayeth Salisbury:

Veteran second baseman Luis Castillo on Monday signed a minor league contract with the Phillies. Sources told Castillo agreed to the deal Sunday night.

Castillo was limited to just 86 games by a foot injury in 2010. He hit .235 with just six extra-base hits in 247 at-bats. He hit .302 with a .387 on-base percentage in 142 games in 2009. He was hitting .286 (8 for 28) with no extra-base hits for the Mets this spring.

At the risk of sounding like an Amaro-phant, it’s a sound, savvy and smart deal for the Phillies, who have yet to hear anything promising regarding Chase Utley’s right knee, making it more and more likely that the second baseman starts the season on the disabled list or worse.

Despite Castillo’s age (35) and his performance in 2010, this move costs the Phillies very little and leaves them with even less risk. If Castillo makes the team – which is not guaranteed – he is, at worst, no better than Wilson Valdez on both sides of the ball, which leaves the Phillies in no worse a situation than they were last week. But at best, Castillo gives the Phillies depth in the infield with a solid enough bat (he is only two seasons away from hitting .300 with an on-base percentage of .387 – albeit with zero power) from both sides of the plate.

For my money, it’s a good move for the Phillies when you consider the crop of players vying for the chance to fill the big shoes of Utley this spring. While Wilson Valdez proved to be useful in 2010, his value lies more in steady defense all around the infield than in his bat as an everyday player, and the likes of Josh Barfield, Pete Orr and Michael Martinez provide little more than filler with which the Phils hope to catch lightning in a bottle.

Is Luis the panacea for the Phillies’ offensive concerns? Not by far, but it’s one of those low-risk/high-reward moves that we hear so much about in spring training. But unlike similar moves, the Phillies only pay a fraction of his salary (just over $400K), should he make the big club.

And at the very least, this prevents the Phillies from doing something really stupid – like trading Joe Blanton for Michael Young.

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