Ruben Amaro Jr. made the dean's list his freshman year and deserves the benefit of the doubt before identifying the start of a sophomore slump. With that in mind, it's worth taking a walk in Ruben's shoes to understand the rationale behind agreeing on a deal that would reward Castro and his career 57 OPS+ with a Major League contract plus an option year. First, Castro provides 15 years of on-the-job experience, which means he can turn a double play after idling for weeks on a bench. Second, he won't grouse for playing time, which is great, because the last man on the Phillies' bench never, ever plays. So Taguchi and Eric Bruntlett combined for less than 200 at bats in 2008 and 2009. Finally, suitable, reasonably priced options may not be as plentiful as originally thought. As David Murphy points out, Omar Vizquel, who's as poor at the plate as Castro, recently signed a one year deal with the White Sox for a reported $1.375 million.
With that in mind, one can't help but wonder how Amaro will approach another peripheral need: backup catcher. Recall that departed backup, Paul Bako, signed to a minor league deal mid-season and hit a replacement-level .224/.308/.336 in 130 plate appearances with the big club, losing time late to established backstop Carlos Ruiz, who posted a .862 OPS after the break and will head to 2010 riding some good momentum. Despite the low totals one would expect from a journeyman backup, Bako turned out to be just fine for the Phils; a better handler than Chris Coste and able to produce a big hit now and then.
Would the Phillies be so thrifty to consider Paul Hoover, who was resigned to a minor league deal recently after spending September with the club after serving as Lehigh Valley's starting catcher? Maybe. The Phillies need someone in Lehigh Valley regardless, but don't put it past the Phillies to give Ruiz their full endorsement - moreso than ever - and allow the backup battle play out in spring training, possibly between minor league signings like Hoover and someone like Bako.
In theory, this tactic would free up more resources for an everyday third baseman, someone who will step to the plate about 500 more times than either a backup catcher or utility infielder.