After releasing second baseman Luis Castillo–a fifteen-year big league veteran–last Friday, the Mets cut ties with expensive southpaw Oliver Perez despite still owing him $12 million dollars for this season. Together, the two oft-injured, disappointing players will receive $18 million dollars from the Mets in 2011.
Last fall, in light of messy legal battles, various financial issues and annually disappointing performances in the win column, Mets owner Fred Wilpon fired General Manager Omar Minaya and skipper Jerry Manuel and vowed to turn the franchise’s bleak future in to a bright(er) one. In the press conference following those two moves, Wilpon said “the buck stops with me.”
Wilpon clearly wants to turn his franchise around and improve his team’s ugly clubhouse chemistry. Players like Francisco Rodriguez, Carlos Santana and Carlos Beltran have provided constant distractions with their issues off the field, but Minaya, Manuel, Perez and Castillo were arguably the organization’s most-hated. Minaya built a wallet-busting sideshow of a team, while Manuel lost control of his players long ago. With constant injury problems, and mental breakdowns, Perez and Castillo were the equivalent of Chuck Knoblauch and Carl Pavano– two other players excommunicated from New York for their clubhouse-killing antics.
While Castillo has already found a new suitor, signing with Philadelphia on Monday, he doesn’t seem content on a fresh start. Despite Phillies manager Charlie Mauel’s slotting Castillo into his starting lineup for a Tuesday spring training game, he didn’t show up to camp until later that afternoon. With just eight games remaining on the Phillies spring training schedule, Castillo will have to perform at a high level to beat out incumbent back-up second baseman Wilson Valdez for a job.
Although Perez’s left-handedness and good fastball velocity would make him an intriguing reliever, he’s particularly adverse to pitching out of the bullpen. Due to poor performance as a starting pitcher, even the wealthiest teams with even the shallowest rotations– like the Yankees– don’t seem interested in Perez’s services.
With four of the biggest weights no longer dragging the organization down, the Mets will look to start fresh and leave their fans with a glimmer of hope. The addition of hard-nosed veteran manager Terry Collins could help keep the team’s clubhouse– still full of star-athlete egos and loud personalities– together, while impact players like David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay and Francisco Rodriguez are looking healthier and ready to bounce-back.