In baseball, as in life, one team’s trash can be another team’s treasure. Following Friday’s decisions by teams to not offer 2017 contracts to various players, there’s a new group of free agents cast into the market. The Orioles will likely take a look at some of those guys to see if the price is right.
One surprising player who was non-tendered is catcher Welington Castillo, who had been with the Diamondbacks. Arizona opted to not offer Castillo a contract rather than pay him for 2017. MLB Trade Rumors projected he would get a $5.9 million salary in arbitration.
Enter the Orioles, who, as you’ve probably heard, are on the lookout for a catcher. MASN’s Roch Kubatko reported on Saturday that the Orioles are among the teams who are interested in Castillo’s services.
They will not be the only ones to come calling. It was a thin market for catchers to begin with, so the addition of a player like Castillo could generate a bit of interest. Reporters for both the Rays and the Braves signaled that those teams are also interested in Castillo. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times wrote that the Rays are “expected to aggressively pursue” Castillo.
Castillo is certainly the kind of guy it’s not surprising the Orioles would look at. He’ll likely come on a one year contract for not a lot of money and almost certainly represents an improvement over sticking with the Caleb Joseph/Francisco Pena pair. With prospect Chance Sisco believed to be not far off, they shouldn’t mess around with anybody expensive.
At the plate, the righty-batting Castillo, who will turn 30 next April, has been league average or just shy of it in his career. In 2016 for Arizona, he batted .264/.322/.423, not extremely impressive numbers but still better than Matt Wieters across the board and far better than Joseph.
Castillo has also, in his career, been about league average when it comes to throwing out base-stealers, with a career caught-stealing rate of 31%. That spiked to the highest it’s ever been in 2016, with Castillo throwing out 38% of runners. Perhaps Arizona pitchers gave him an edge in throwing out runners that he did not have before. Don’t count on a one year spike continuing.
What’s not good is the rest of Castillo’s defense. As tiresome as it is to talk about pitch framing, it’s an important skill in the current game. Some catchers are not good at it. Wieters is one of those catchers. So is Castillo, who, in 2013, 2014, and 2015, was one of the five worst pitch framers on a per-game basis in all of MLB.
That pitch framing improved a lot in 2016. Castillo “only” lost 0.23 calls per game, according to StatCorner’s framing data. That’s still not good, but it’s a lot better than he was. It’s another thing where you would have to wonder whether that’s a skill he’s gained or whether there was something particular to Arizona - the nature of their pitchers, or instruction he received there that he might not get elsewhere - that led to the one-year bump.
Castillo has never started more than 107 games at catcher in a season, so it’ll still matter who his backup is. If it’s Joseph, he’ll get a decent bit of playing time, a bit more regularly than he did in 2016. Maybe he’ll get that RBI eventually.
The fact that Castillo has some flaws is what got him non-tendered in the first place, of course, and also what may make him affordable to the Orioles. If he was amazing, everyone would want him. But he should, probably, be good enough for his price range, and better than what the O’s have already. That’s not very exciting, yet it’s not meaningless, either.