1:13pm: The Twins did meet with Castro’s representation during the GM Meetings this week, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (via Twitter), though the two sides only discussed “general needs and wants” at the time. Berardino adds that the Twins and Castro agreed to “reconvene” next week.
11:27am: Free-agent catcher Jason Castro is already weighing offers from at least three American League clubs, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link), who also notes that the market for catchers is beginning to heat up. While Passan doesn’t specify which clubs have extended offers to the Stanford product and former No. 10 overall pick, there are multiple clubs in the AL that could certainly use catching help. The Astros are known to want Castro back, while the Angels, White Sox, Orioles, Rays and Twins are among Houston’s AL rivals that could look to pick up some help behind the plate.
Castro, 29, posted a .210/.307/.377 batting line with 11 home runs in 2016 — sub-par production relative to the league-average hitter but right in line with the park-adjusted output of a league-average catcher. While he was an All-Star with Houston in 2013 and looked to have enjoyed a breakout season (.276/.350/.485, 18 home runs, 35 doubles), his bat has regressed quite a bit since that time. While some clubs are undoubtedly tantalized by the upside of Castro once again reaching this height, he’ll play the bulk of next season at age 30, so teams also must be cognizant of the fact that it could simply be an outlier.
If a team were able to find a sufficient platoon partner for Castro and heavily limit his exposure to left-handed pitching, there’s reason to believe that his overall performance would increase. Castro hit .231/.331/.426 and launched 10 of his 11 home runs against right-handed pitching in 2016 but floundered at a .149/.237/.241 clip against fellow lefties. That’s been a trend throughout his career, as evidenced by a .247/.328/.424 slash line when holding the platoon advantage and an ugly .190/.249/.287 line against southpaws.
Though he may not be more than an average bat for a catcher, he does excel when it comes to pitch framing — a trait that is becoming increasingly important to front offices around the game. Castro trailed only Buster Posey and Yasmani Grandal as the best framing catcher in baseball, according to Baseball Prospectus, and he’s consistently been among the top framers in each of the past three seasons. He’s seen some fluctuations in terms of halting stolen base attempts, throwing out a career-best 36 percent of potential thieves in 2015 but sandwiching that between a pair of below-average seasons. Overall, he’s prevented 26 percent of the attempts against him in his career — about two percent below the league average in that time.
Though Castro has his flaws, his solid numbers against right-handed pitching and excellent framing skills landed him 29th on MLBTR’s Top 50 free agent list with a projection of two years and $15MM. I’ll note, however, that I’m among the most bullish on Castro among the MLBTR staff and do think he has a chance at landing a three-year pact.