Posted on December 10, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
One of the most surprising additions to the free agent market at the non-tender deadline was catcher Welington Castillo, who was not offered a contract for 2017 by the Arizona Diamondbacks after spending a year and a half in the desert. Not surprisingly, Castillo has become a rather popular name on the free agent market. In recent days, the Baltimore Orioles have emerged as potential favorites to sign him.
Reports coming out of Baltimore on Friday indicate that the Orioles had conversations with Castillo’s representatives during the Winter Meetings, although a deal was not completed. Castillo previously received interest this offseason from the Tampa Bay Rays, although they have since signed Wilson Ramos, likely taking them out of the running for Castillo. The Atlanta Braves have also been linked to Castillo, giving the Orioles some competition if they hope to add Castillo.
Baltimore’s interest in Castillo indicates the team’s uncertainty of being able to re-sign Matt Wieters, who has spent his entire career with the Orioles. Agent Scott Boras, who represents Wieters, mentioned during the Winter Meetings that a catcher like Wieters, who is clearly the top free agent at that position, may not sign with a team until January. In the meantime, the Orioles are concerned they may miss out on signing a suitable replacement if they wait for Wieters but don’t get them.
The Orioles admit that Wieters is still at the top of their wish list, but they have not been shy about looking at other catchers, including Nick Hundley and Chris Ianetta, in addition to Castillo. Baltimore is hoping to find a catcher who can at least share time behind the plate with Caleb Joseph. However, with Joseph hitting just .174 last season, they would prefer a catcher who can be a regular starter, which points to Wieters and Castillo rather than Hundley or Ianetta.
Despite being let go by the Diamondbacks, Castillo is coming off one of his better seasons and should be viewed as an every day catcher. He hit .264 with 14 home runs and 24 doubles, making him a good candidate to make up for the power the Orioles would lose if they can’t re-sign Wieters. Castillo’s offensive numbers were actually better than those of Wieters in 2016, making him appear to be a good fit in Baltimore, playing for a team that loves to hit the long ball.
Of course, the Orioles are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They have a long history with Wieters, and it’d be difficult for them to shut the door on him and sign another catcher while he’s still available. At the same time, they can’t just assume they will re-sign Wieters, as they’d be in a tough spot if he signs elsewhere, meaning they have to examine other options like Castillo. One more element to consider is Chance Sisco, one of the top catching prospects in baseball who could be big league ready at some point in 2017. This could make the Orioles hesitant to give out a multi-year deal to any catcher, including Wieters and Castillo.
With all this in mind, it’s easy to understand why the Orioles haven’t made a stronger push to sign a catcher early in the offseason, as they have to carefully examine their choices. But clearly, they have plenty of options at their disposal, and going after Castillo appears to be an option they are strongly considering at the moment.