The Orioles under Dan Duquette have had an odd free agency dance. They are reportedly interested in a player, the two sides appears to have mutual interest, a deal is approaching, a snag occurs ending any and all possibility that the player actually signs with the Orioles.
The latest iteration of this cycle occurred with free agent catcher Welington Castillo. This occurred over the span of a few days as fellow Camden Chatter Mark Brown pointed out and detailed Monday night. An amazing turn of events that seemingly only these Orioles could pull off.
However, the Orioles should reconsider and attempt to sign Castillo. The only other catcher the Orioles have been strongly linked to is former Orioles Nick Hundley. Hundley is not a great option to start and lacks skills the Orioles need behind the plate. Castillo can hit a little, has held runners in check, and will help the team more in 2017.
Castillo is 29 and will turn 30 in April. He is a right handed hitting catcher with a career .256/.318/.423 batting line. He has a career 98 wRC+ and posted a 92 wRC+ in 2016. Most importantly, at the plate he has mashed left handed pitching which the Orioles desperately need.
Castillo has a career 126 wRC+ against left handed pitchers and he has held his own against right handed pitchers with a career 88 wRC+. At the plate he definitely fills an Oriole need.
He comes with a little discipline as well sporting a career 7.1 percent walk rate, although he does strikeout about a quarter of the time. He has some pop, but again not much with a career .162 isolated power (ISO). He is a decent hitter and that is an improvement over what the Orioles had in 2016 at the plate from their catchers.
With the glove, the results are mixed. He has posted a career +18 defensive runs saved (DRS) and posted a +7 DRS last season. He has a pretty great arm with a career caught stealing rate of 31 percent and posted a 38 percent rate last season. The Orioles value a steady arm behind the plate and Castillo can certainly provide that.
On the downside, the publicly available framing metrics rate Castillo pretty poorly (as they do for both Hundley and Wieters by the way). According to Baseball Prospectus’s framing metric FRAA (Framing Runs Above Average) Castillo has posted a -10 FRAA or worse in each season he has played in over 100 games.
A better framing catcher, much like an improved outfield, would certainly help an ailing pitching staff. And if the Orioles do really care about pitch framing, they already have a good one around. Caleb Joseph rates well in publicly-available metrics.
His presence behind the plate is also questionable in the blocking pitches department. Castillo allowed 10 passed balls in 2016 a career high. He also was behind the plate for 42 wild pitches, another career high. Maybe you cannot blame all those wild pitches on him, but it does not speak well for his ability to block poor pitches.
Overall, Castillo is a good not great player. His last three seasons in fWAR are 1.7, 1.2, 2.5 respectively. In bWAR it has been 2.4, 1.4, -0.3. In WARP it has been 1.0, -0.4, and 0.1. Depending on which value metric you like best, Castillo has been about an average player to a below average player.
Castillo has some warts, but that is why is available at all to the Orioles. The Orioles cannot afford the stars, they need to find some good scrubs.
The big question in all of this is how the Orioles feel about Chance Sisco’s future behind the plate. The public prospect industrial complex has varied on his defensive skills. They have rated him at best as below average.
The Orioles seem intent on giving Sisco more time to learn the craft in the minor leagues. However, the key to all of this is do they intend on keeping him behind the plate at all or how long they believe it will take for them to be comfortable with Sisco behind the plate.
I have been on the record in my belief that the Orioles should roll with Sisco as the starting catcher going into 2017. Sisco can hit, he has shown in game power, and the Orioles have taught their last two catchers at the big league level how to be better catchers.
Both Matt Wieters and Caleb Joseph were not seen as great defensive catchers in the minor leagues and now their gloves are the only reason they even have a chance at a major league job. I do not know if Sisco will have the same outcome, but if the Orioles have not moved him off of catcher yet, I have to believe that they believe he can catch in the majors.
Which brings us back to Castillo. Now, it could be that the Orioles backed away because Castillo wants too many years. If he wants a three to four year deal, then it would make sense for the Orioles to back off. However, if he can be signed for a one to two year deal it makes sense for 2017 and the future.
Castillo would make a decent starter until Sisco is ready. He can hit lefties and throw runners out. He is not the perfect catcher, but the Orioles cannot afford one of those.
After Sisco comes up, Castillo is a natural platoon partner so the Orioles can ease Sisco in and then Castillo can slides to a backup role as needed. Castillo is the only catching option on the free agent market that presents the Orioles a decent option for 2017 and beyond. If the Orioles are intent on signing a free agent catcher, it should be Welington Castillo.