Twins strike deal for Castillo

Twins get Gold Glove 2B Castillo

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins have spent the offseason looking to improve offensively and defensively. On Friday, they made one acquisition that addresses both needs.

Minnesota received All-Star second baseman Luis Castillo in a trade with the cost-cutting Marlins in exchange for pitching prospects Travis Bowyer and Scott Tyler. The deal came as club executives prepare to attend the Winter Meetings next week in Dallas.

"He's a good player," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said Friday afternoon. "He's been on a winning club. He's experienced. He fits a lot of the things we're trying to accomplish."

Castillo batted .301 with four homers and 30 RBIs in 122 games during the 2005 season. The switch-hitter is a lifetime .293 hitter since breaking into the Major Leagues with the Marlins in 1996 and has two World Series rings with the club. He stole a career-high 62 bases in 2000, but was limited to just 10 steals last season because of hip and quadriceps injuries.

"I know people don't know a lot about him in our market," Ryan conceded. "But I know people in the National League have a good appreciation for him. He can run. He takes good at-bats. He puts the ball in play but isn't afraid to walk. He's the type of guy expected to maintain because he's only 30 years old."

Florida has been attempting to slash its payroll for next season and already dealt pitcher Josh Beckett to the Red Sox and slugger Carlos Delgado to the Mets last week. Castillo's 2006 salary of $5 million with a $5.75 club option for 2007 appears to fit Minnesota's payroll, which is expected to approach $60 million next season.

After the Twins missed the playoffs for the first time since 2001 while suffering fundamental breakdowns throughout its lineup, Ryan and manager Ron Gardenhire promised to make changes.

Castillo, a National League All-Star in 2002-03 and 2005, brings a reputation for solid hitting, getting on base and scoring runs. He owned a .391 on-base percentage last season, and has a .370 lifetime mark. The native of the Dominican Republic gained national attention with his 35-game hitting streak in 2002. It was the longest streak in the Majors since 1987 until Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins eclipsed it this past season.

A former leadoff hitter, Castillo batted in the second spot the past few seasons in Florida. Left fielder Shannon Stewart is the Twins' current leadoff hitter, but Ryan said that Gardenhire would talk with both players before determining where they bat in the lineup.

Twins backup catcher Mike Redmond, who came up through the Marlins system and played with Castillo in the Majors from 1998-2004, says the second baseman will fit right in.

"He's probably the best second baseman I've ever played with or seen play," Redmond said from his home in Spokane, Wash. "He'll be even better playing on the Astroturf. He comes ready to play and he'll give you everything he has. Our pitchers will love having him back there."

Second base was a problem area for the Twins last season with Luis Rivas, Nick Punto, Juan Castro and Luis Rodriguez among those getting time at the position, none with great success. One trade backfired when former All-Star Bret Boone was acquired from Seattle in July and struggled with faded skills. Boone was released after just three weeks.

Ryan said that former third baseman Michael Cuddyer, who was under consideration to play second base next season before Friday's trade, will compete for the starting right field spot at Spring Training against Lew Ford, Jason Kubel and anyone else Ryan might acquire.

A three-time NL Gold Glove winner, including one in 2005, Castillo should also strengthen the club defensively.

"I'm excited and pumped I'll get to play with Luis again," Redmond said. "He'll be great in Minnesota. I think fans will love him."

Bowyer, a hard-throwing right-handed reliever, was 4-2 with a 2.78 ERA and 23 saves in 59 games for Triple-A Rochester in 2005. He earned his first big league callup in September after rosters expanded, and went 0-1 with a 5.59 ERA in eight games. The 24-year-old was considered expendable from a Minnesota bullpen that had several relievers ahead of him, including Joe Nathan, Juan Rincon, Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier.

Tyler, 23, was 7-8 with a 3.95 ERA in 23 starts for Class A Fort Myers.

Ryan said the Twins are not done trying to make improvements this winter. The club is still seeking to fill spots at third base and designated hitter.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.