Pirates select Meek in Rule 5 Draft
Team releases utility infielder Castillo to take right-hander
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Though signs of Jose Castillo's departure from Pittsburgh were becoming more and more evident as both the season and offseason progressed, the Pirates made it official on Thursday when they released the utility infielder in order to make room on the team's 40-man roster to make a Rule 5 claim.
The Pirates used the second overall selection in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft to select right-hander Evan Meek from Tampa Bay in the Major League portion of the Draft. The club later made four Minor League Rule 5 claims as well.
Leading up to Thursday's Draft, general manager Neal Huntington worked hard to try and work a deal that would have sent Castillo elsewhere, and as a result, would have at least garnered the Pirates some sort of compensation in return. However, Huntington was unable to find any suitors for Castillo.
"Jose is a very talented player that we think is going to continue to be a solid Major League player," Huntington said. "We inherited a very difficult situation and tried to see if we could work through it and ultimately decided that it wasn't in either party's interest to continue the relationship."
That relationship had already been fractured by the end of the season when Castillo voiced his discontent with a lack of playing time in Pittsburgh. The Pirates were also aware that if they tendered a contract to the infielder, Castillo's final salary would likely have exceeded the $2 million mark next season.
After Monday's waiver claim of infielder Josh Wilson and with a deal nearly finalized with veteran infielder Chris Gomez, the Pirates had no reason to hold on to Castillo.
With the selection of Meek, the Pirates receive a hard-throwing right-hander who they are hopeful can add some immediate stability in the bullpen next year.
With a fastball consistently clocked in the mid-90s, Meek had a three to one ground ball to fly ball ratio last season while pitching for the Rays' Double-A Montgomery club. He went 2-1 with a 4.30 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 67 innings out of the bullpen for the Biscuits.
Meek also pitched in the Arizona Fall League this offseason, allowing just one run and three hits in 9 2/3 total innings of relief.
"Bullpen help is hard to come by and we think this guy can come out and try to make our club and help our bullpen right away," Huntington said of Meek, who was initially drafted by Minnesota in the 11th round of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft. "All we have to do is hit on one of these waiver claims, hit on one of these Rule 5 claims, and the return will be 100 fold, 1,000 fold. For us, these are low-risk moves. If one guy hits, we are in great shape. If two guys hit, we're in phenomenal shape."
Meek, 24, will compete for a spot on Pittsburgh's 25-man roster out of Spring Training. In order for the Pirates to retain the right-hander, he will have to stay on the Major League club's roster throughout the season. If he does, the cost for the Pirates will be $50,000. Otherwise, the Pirates must offer him back to the Rays and endure a total cost of just $25,000, a price that makes Rule 5 selections an affordable risk to take.
In addition, the Pirates made three selections in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft, as well as one in the Double-A phase that followed. All four Minor League selections were pitchers, as the organization continues to make an effort to infuse young pitching talent into its Minor League system.
"As an organization in the past, we signed a lot of Minor League free agents that were older and pushed them back," Huntington said. "We're trying to change the philosophy a little bit. We're trying to get guys who have a little more upside, give guys more of an opportunity. And the guys we selected today, we thought there was some more of an upside."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.