The Orioles said they would get their catcher before January rolled along, and by golly, they have lived up to that. On Wednesday afternoon, they reached an agreement with free agent Welington Castillo on a contract that could be worth either $6 million over one year or $13 million over two years. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman was the first to report the news.
Nothing is ever settled until the dreaded Orioles physical has its say, but barring a second consecutive offseason with that wrench thrown into the gears, the Orioles have found their Opening Day 2017 catcher in Castillo. They can thank the Diamondbacks for non-tendering Castillo and putting another catcher onto the market.
There’s one wrinkle in the contract, which is that the 2018 year of the deal is a player option. The Orioles are philosophically against opt-outs, but apparently they’re OK with player options, which are functionally if not technically the same thing. Castillo will control whether he comes back for 2018.
If Castillo has a good 2017, that could be a win-win for both sides. The O’s will have found their one year bridge to when prospect Chance Sisco is ready to (hopefully) take over for good, while Castillo could hit the free agent market again in a year having better demonstrated his value to teams looking for a catcher.
MASN’s Roch Kubatko described the O’s interest in Castillo by saying, “This has been their guy.” They were interested even before Castillo was non-tendered by Arizona. Now the Orioles get him while only paying money.
That’s good, right? Sure, if Castillo’s OK. Let’s hope that the people who determined that Castillo was their guy are making a better decision than the people who determined that Travis Snider was their guy, Gerardo Parra was their guy, or Yovani Gallardo was their guy. It may actually be the same people.
Fellow Camden Chatter Alex Conway wrote earlier today about why the Orioles should sign Castillo. The simple fact is that while he’s probably not a great catcher, he may have been the best choice available. I would rather see Castillo signed than Nick Hundley, and a reunion with Matt Wieters never seemed like the best case scenario, either.
In the 2016 season, Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 over 113 games. His career batting line looks a lot like Wieters, only without the disappointment of lofty expectations that were never met. He is about average at throwing out runners and is generally seen as a bad pitch framer, although his numbers for this improved somewhat (by some metrics) in 2016. That was also true of Wieters.
By plugging in a known quantity, if not a great one, at catcher for most of the season, the O’s are buying Sisco the time he needs to work on his defense at Triple-A Norfolk. I still figure we’ll see Sisco in Baltimore around late July or early August, but Castillo should be good enough that they don’t have to rush up Sisco to fill a hole in an emergency.
Even if Castillo sticks around for 2018, that’s not so bad. Sisco has yet to catch more than 87 games in a season. The O’s probably won’t be throwing him out there and expecting him to catch 120 games in his first full big league season.
There will be playing time to go around and the O’s won’t be paying a high price tag, whatever happens. Just remember, if you want to look like you know what you’re talking about, that’s one L in Welington and two Ls in Castillo.