The Orioles disdain for giving free agents an opt-out in contracts is well known, but in the right situation they will offer an opt-out, call it a player option and insist that they don’t do opt-outs even though this is plainly not the truth. From this contradiction springs Monday afternoon’s news that Welington Castillo has declined a player option for 2018, making him a free agent. Jon Heyman was the first to report the news.
This was not a surprising announcement. Castillo had been expected to exercise his right to opt out of the contract based on the strength of a career-best season at the plate, where among other things he set a new personal best with 20 home runs despite playing in only 96 games.
Over that time, Castillo batted .282/.323/.490 - also career bests for batting average and slugging percentage. He added defensive value to that as well, throwing out 49% of the would-be base-stealers who took off against him this season. There’s a lot of daylight between that number and the 27% that was league average for the year.
Castillo, who was non-tendered by the Diamondbacks last offseason, signed a contract with the Orioles with a $6 million salary for the 2017 season and if Castillo wanted to exercise the option, a $7 million salary for 2018. He has chosen to be a free agent instead.
The contrast between the catcher the Orioles signed, Castillo, and the one they let walk down the road, Matt Wieters, is stark. Wieters signed a similarly-structured contract with the Nationals, a two-year deal with the option for the player to decline the 2018 salary and become a free agent.
Wieters, also turning 32 in the first half of next season, had the worst offensive year of his career. He made it official that he is taking his player option for next year, saddling the Nationals with what seems to be a wasted $10.5 million in addition to the $10.5 million they paid for him this season. Scott Boras always gets the last laugh. I like to imagine the Nationals thinking that they really stuck it to the Orioles by signing Wieters and getting this instead.
Anyway, the Castillo signing really couldn’t have worked out much better for the O’s. They needed a one-year stopgap in order to give time for prospect Chance Sisco to get himself closer to big league readiness. They did not need any more than that.
Castillo performed well enough to exercise his opt-out - excuse me, to decline to exercise his player option - and he gets to be a free agent in a weak market, coming off a career-best season. He wins, too.