There is a certain pattern that seems to repeat with the Orioles each offseason regarding free agents. First, they’re said to be interested in a player. Sometimes they’re even said to be moving towards signing a player. Then, suddenly, the player goes and signs elsewhere. The pattern has played out yet again with catcher Welington Castillo, as the Orioles, according to Baltimore Baseball’s Dan Connolly, are now no longer seen as the likely landing spot for Castillo.
With that, the circle of Orioles rumors for Castillo is almost complete. He only has to officially sign somewhere else. It was Connolly who wrote just three days ago that Castillo was the O’s “preferred” option for signing a catcher. And only yesterday, MASN’s Roch Kubatko said the O’s were the favorites for signing Castillo. So much for that.
Of course, it’s always possible that was true when Kubatko and Connolly wrote those things. Free agent markets are fluid and can quickly evolve, perhaps beyond where the Orioles value a player like Castillo. Maybe some team jumped in offering more money, or even a third year. It’ll be interesting to see what the contract looks like if another team does sign Castillo.
Another way to view the abrupt reversal about Castillo is that the Orioles were not, despite reports, ever all that serious about Castillo. Perhaps it was all part of another cat and mouse game with agent Scott Boras regarding one of his O’s free agent clients. This offseason, that’s Matt Wieters.
Last year, the O’s seemed to try very hard to demonstrate to Boras that they were serious about moving on from Chris Davis and signing a different high-priced slugger. They came together with Davis in the end.
There won’t be so many years or dollars involving Wieters - hopefully no more than two years - but it could be the same game being played. When you get down to it, the Orioles seem to really like re-signing their guys, whether or not it’s a good idea to actually do so.
Would Castillo have been a good signing? If the price was right, maybe. He is acceptable as a hitter - basically Wieters-caliber, only without the baggage of expectations not met - and has done decently at controlling the running game in his career. Castillo does not rate well with various pitch framing metrics, though, and in 2016 he allowed 10 passed balls, suggesting that pitch blocking is a weakness as well.
Castillo became a free agent because the Diamondbacks non-tendered him rather than pay him an estimated $5.9 million for 2017. However, Castillo seems to be a player who’s able to parlay a non-tender into a multi-year contract. Maybe the Orioles balked at the price tag or maybe they never wanted him much to begin with.
If the Orioles end up signing neither Castillo nor Wieters and go for a cheap catcher while also spending all of their available money on re-signing Mark Trumbo, keeping a sanguine disposition about it all will be a challenge.