The Diamondbacks have had internal discussions about approaching catcher Welington Castillo about a contract extension, Arizona GM Dave Stewart tells Jack Magruder of Fan Rag. It doesn’t appear as if talks have begun, however, as Stewart suggests that the team hasn’t yet decided on its course of action.
Castillo, 29, is playing out his second-to-last season of team control on a $3.7MM arbitration agreement. He’s arb-eligible a final time this winter, and will reach the open market after the 2017 campaign — unless a new deal can be struck. The sides will already be at the bargaining table to hammer out a new arbitration number, which could provide an opportune time at least to lay the groundwork for a broader agreement.
The backstop bounced around last year from the Cubs to the Mariners before landing in Arizona as part of the deal that sent Mark Trumbo to Seattle. That swap has worked out quite nicely for both the D-Backs and Castillo, as he turned things around immediately upon arriving in his new home.
Over his 625 plate appearances with the Snakes, Castillo owns a .260/.315/.468 batting line with 29 home runs. Though he did more damage at the plate last year than he has thus far in 2016, he carries far more punch than your average receiver and has been a very useful pick-up.
Notably, Castillo has made strides with his defensive work this year, according to Baseball Prospectus’s catcher ratings (subscription required and recommended). He has typically graded as a solid blocker while registering good marks with his arm. And Castillo has also improved greatly as a pitch framer; once one of the game’s least-regarded framers, he now registers as average to slightly below-average (with StatCorner valuing him higher than does BP) at winning strikes for his pitchers.
Skipper Chip Hale also adds that Castillo has worked hard at handling the Arizona staff. “Welington has been an unbelievable studier this whole year,” says Hale. “He’s improved every month. You watch him, he’s in there whether it’s with pitchers, with coaches, on his own.”
The D-Backs will obviously need to weigh organizational need in addition to valuing a player who would be entering his age-31 campaign in any new years of control that might hypothetically be added. Looking at the rest of the depth chart, though, it’s easy to see how Castillo could make for a longer-term fit.
Chris Herrmann has put together 161 surprisingly excellent plate appearances this year while playing catcher and a variety of other positions, but it would be hard to rely on that continuing. Tuffy Gosewisch still provides a depth option. And 2015 Rule 5 pick Oscar Hernandez is still in the organization, though he has struggled at the Double-A level after earning a promotion with a strong batting line in High-A action earlier this year. Otherwise, only one of Arizona’s top thirty prospects (as ranked by MLB.com) is a catcher, and Andy Yerzy is an 18-year-old who is struggling to hit in Rookie ball.