Analyzing the Orioles’ acquisition of Welington Castillo

Castillo, while playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2016. Credit: MLB Trade Rumors

BALTIMORE, MD – After a quiet trip to the 2016 MLB Winter Meetings, the Baltimore Orioles made their first major signing of the offseason on Thursday, agreeing to terms with free agent catcher Welington “Beef” Castillo.

After Castillo passed a physical on Friday (which seems to not be the easiest thing in the world for free agents coming to the Orioles), the deal became official. Castillo’s contract is a reported one-year, $6 million deal that includes a $7 million option for 2018, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.

With the signing of Castillo, the Matt Wieters era in Baltimore appears to be over. Wieters and his agent Scott Boras are willing to wait an extended period of time for a ball-club to make Wieters one of the highest (if not the highest) paid catcher in baseball. The Orioles were not willing to wait, signing the 29-year-old Castillo to a cheaper, shorter-term contract.

With Wieters already being over the age of 30 and seeking a long-term deal, it made sense for the O’s to go another direction. It is no secret that Wieters has been a favorite in Baltimore, both my the fans and the Orioles themselves. However, after being named the #2 prospect in baseball by MiLB in 2009, it is fair to say that Wieters never lived up to that bill. A lot of that criticism is unfair, as only so many of the highest-rated prospects continue to have the same amount of success in the majors. Wieters was a solid starting catcher for the Orioles for well over half a decade, amassing a stellar four All-Star nominations and two Gold Gloves. He should continue to have success wherever he lands next.

Castillo, a native of the Dominican Republic, was signed by the Chicago Cubs as an amateur free agent in 2004. He made his major league debut with Chicago in August 2010, and was Chicago’s starting catcher from 2013 to early 2015. In May of the 2015 season Castillo was traded to the Seattle Mariners, and he only played in six games there before being traded to the Diamondbacks. Mark Trumbo, a current free agent who played for the Orioles in 2016, was one of the D-Backs players traded for Castillo. After Castillo was traded to Arizona, he was their starting catcher for the remainder of the 2015 season and all of last season.

Castillo does not have the resume that Wieters does. He has never made an All-Star game, but last season he outperformed Wieters in multiple offensive categories. In 2016 Castillo led Wieters in batting average (.264 to .243), doubles (24-17), RBI (68-66), and on-base percentage (.322-.302). Also unlike Wieters, Castillo has never missed time for a significant injury. Wieters missed essentially a calendar year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014.

“We liked Welington, we liked what he did the last few years and we like what he does going forward,” said executive vice president Dan Duquette. “We took a long look at comparing all the catchers who were available on the market and we liked Welington’s skills, particularly what he’s done the last couple of years and our projections look good on Welington.”

From a statistical standpoint, the Orioles can expect about the same amount of production from Castillo as they got from Wieters. It was smart to give a catcher around the age of 30 a short-term contract, which would not have been the case had the Orioles tried to reunite with Wieters. Obviously, Castillo will have to make the adjustment to American League pitching, where he has only played 16 games in his career.

Behind Casillo, Caleb Joseph will likely be the backup catcher once again. Joseph had a disappointing season in 2016, finishing the season without an RBI and dealing with injuries. Chance Sisco, the top prospect in the Orioles’ organization, will likely begin the 2017 season in Triple A-Norfolk, and is likely a year or two away from making his big league debut.

It would have been nice for Baltimore to reunite with fan-favorite Wieters, but Castillo becomes the Orioles’ starting catcher who will likely give them the same production they have gotten at that position at a cheaper price.


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