Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Another look at the Castillo trade

The Twins traded pending free agent Luis Castillo to the Mets in late July for uninspiring OF prospect Dustin Martin and organization-filling C Drew Butera. At the time the trade drew criticism from both the clubhouse and from Twins fans hoping to exchange the 2Bman for a true prospect.

Martin was a 23 yr old batting 287/358/421 for the Mets High A farm team, while Butera (who turned 24 days after the deal) after a recent promotion was batting 188/208/231 in 117 AA at-bats. Both players were old for High A in 2007, and neither was consider a top Mets prospect.

The alternative, of course, was to keep Castillo with the hope he could lead the Twins to the playoffs and garner the team both a first round and a supplemental pick as a Type A free agent. But the Twins correctly assessed that Castillo would not be enough to help the Twins reach the playoffs, and they further determined that the loss of Castillo would only yield the one supplemental pick that comes with being a Type B free agent.

So what was the trade worth to the Twins compared to what they would have received in compensation?

First of all, it should be noted that Terry Ryan saved nearly $2 MM by dealing Castillo. One way or another that savings will allow the Twins a 2008 budget 2MM higher than it would have been. Carl Pohlad, miser that he may be, most likely would have taken the money off the 2008 budget if Ryan had not basically cured the 2007 overage by dealing Castillo (and dumping Jeff Cirillo).

The acquisition of Martin provided the Twins with a CF prospect at the high A level behind CFers Denard Span (AAA) and Brandon Roberts (AA), neither of whom has yet shown the promise necessary to reasonably replace Hunter. It should be noted that a prospect on the fast track will generally need less than two years from High A to reach his first cup of major league coffee. Whether or not Martin can be that fast tracker is under debate, although he batted 290/361/426 in a pitcher's league (including 4 GCL ABs). These would be very good numbers for an age-appropriate CF in the Florida State League. As it is, the numbers are okay but nothing to get hopeful about.

Butera was an FSL all-star in 2007 before his promotion, yet again his High A numbers 258/348/418 look worse when one considers his age. The Twins needed a AA catcher, and Butera filled that role nicely. While he might someday make it to the bigs, Butera's ceiling is that of a defensive back-up. Martin is the player the Twins actually have some real hope for. He was drafted as a 22 yr old college senior, and his minor league experience has been one of success against younger competiton.

The cost of acquiring the two prospects was $0, outside of negligible minor league player salaries, and the Twins have at least two organization fillers and possibly helpful position players down the road.

Compare that to the alternative of having kept Castillo. Besides the almost $2MM it would have cost the Twins, they would also have had to sign the player drafted with the supplemental pick they would have received as compensation. The Twins will lose Torii Hunter and receive a pick from the team signing him and a supplemental pick between the 1st and 2nd rounds. Supplemental picks are ordered such that the teams drafting in the supp rd will draft in reverse order. The Twins finshish with the 14th worst record in the majors last year, and they have the 8th worst record among team losing Type A or B free agents. So losing Hunter might yield the 38th pick in the draft (along with a first or second round pick from the signing team).

The rule on supplemental draft pick order is one of reverse order, but a team may not draft their second supplement pick until all teams drafting in the supplement round have drafted in that round. There are twenty teams that will lose Type A or B free agents, but some will not select in the supp round due to not offering arbitration to their FA. Teams ahead of the Twins in the round might also have just that one pick. A conservative estimate is that the Twins will select 37th (for Hunter) and maybe 50th for Castillo. The 50th player received a bonus of $620,000 in 2007. So the trade of Castillo saved the Twins approximately $2.5 million and gave them one decent prospect and one organizational filler. Not bad.

One thought looms, however. That 50th player is likely pretty good, and you might liken it to previous 50th (or so) picks. The Royals selected Jeff Bianchi there in 2005 and thought they had a steal. The jury's out still. Outstanding prospects Reid Brignac, Yovani Gallardo, B.J Szymanski, and Brian Bixler were taken between 45-52 in 2004, while top Twins prospect Anthony Swarzak went at 61.

A better indicator might be whom the Twins chose in the 2nd round from 2001-2005, when their picks were somewhat close to #50. A quick look back shows the Twins taking Scott Tyler at #45 in 2001. Tyler, ironically, was traded to the Marlins for Castillo after the 2005 season. Jesse Crain (2002, 61), Scott Baker (2003, 58), Swarzak (2004, 61), and the nice prospect Paul Kelly (2005, 54) show that, at least with the Twins drafting, the 50th pick is a very good player or prospect.

The draft changed in 2006 as the supplemental round grew and the Twins had no supplemental picks. Joe Benson was drafted at 64 that year. For 2007 the Twins drafted Ben Revere at 28 and Danny Rams at 92. Needless to say, these recent draftees need to show more for us to determine their value.

I think what this analysis boils down to is that the Twins saved $2.5 million and received a decent prospect package by dealing Castillo, whereas they would have lost the money and drafted a very good prospect had they held onto him. Given the inherent risk associated with draft picks (although the Twins haven't yet missed), it appears Terry Ryan and the Twins took the safe route.

Somewhere that $2.5 million will come into play, and if you read Aaron Gleeman today, you will see that it might be used to pay newly acquired Craig Monroe (and read the comments to find out how Monroe might take a pay cut to this number).

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