Posted on December 1, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Chicago White Sox are very much a team in rebuilding mode this offseason. But that hasn’t stopped them from signing a veteran backstop early in the winter. On Friday, the White Sox announced that they have signed catcher Welington Castillo to a two-year deal worth $15 million. Castillo will earn $7.5 million in each of the next two seasons. The White Sox also hold an $8 million option for the 2020 season.
Castillo spent last season with the Baltimore Orioles. He hit .282 with 20 home runs and an OPS of .813, all of which were career highs for him. The 30-year old backstop was also one of the best in baseball last season at throwing out attempted base stealers. Nevertheless, the Orioles declined his $7 million option for the 2018 season, putting Castillo on the open market for the second straight offseason.
Prior to signing with the Orioles last winter, Castillo enjoyed a productive season with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2016. However, he began his big league career in the Windy City as a member of the Cubs. He was the Cubs’ primary catcher in both 2013 and 2014, playing the 2014 season under current White Sox manager Rick Renteria. His relationship with Renteria helped steer Castillo back to Chicago.
“It means a lot for me to play for him again,” Castillo said of Renteria. “I’ve worked with him. He’s a great human being and a great manager. He’s a player’s manager. I’m excited to have the opportunity to play for him. I’m going to do everything I can to help this team win.”
Of course, the White Sox aren’t expected to be competitive in 2018. The team has traded away several key players over the past year, most notably Chris Sale and Jose Quintana. The fire sale isn’t yet over, as Jose Abreu could soon be traded as well. However, if Castillo is signed for two, possibly three years, he could be with the White Sox when they start to become competitive again.
“We view it as an upgrade both in the short-term and the long-term,” explains White Sox GM Rick Hahn. “He’s been one of the most productive catchers in baseball over the last few years. We think he’ll make an impact on both our young pitchers and our young catchers.”
Castillo will undoubtedly enter spring training as Chicago’s starting catcher. Kevan Smith and Omar Narvaez figure to battle for the backup job. Smith and Narvaez split the catching duties for the White Sox for much of last season. However, neither made much of an impact offensively and both pale in comparison to Castillo in terms of hitting for power.
Narvaez is a little younger than Smith and offers more upside. The White Sox also have a promising catching prospect in Zack Collins, although he could be another year away from reaching the majors. Castillo figures to serve as a mentor for both Narvaez and Collins over the next couple of seasons. He’ll also be looked at to do the same for the team’s young pitcher staff, which is high on talent but lacking experience.
“There are a lot of young guys,” Castillo said of the current White Sox roster. “It’s a young team, but I wanted to come here and help them.”
On the surface, this looks like a surprising move by the White Sox. But the club does have a few of their best young players already in place. In the event the White Sox rebuild quicker than expected, Castillo could prove to be an important piece of the puzzle.