Orioles catcher Welington Castillo will decline a one-year, $7MM player option and re-enter the free-agent market in search of a larger multi-year contract, tweets FanRag’s Jon Heyman. The decision has seemed likely for quite some time now given the strength of Castillo’s 2017 season in Baltimore. He’ll hit the open market as one of the top catchers available, along with Alex Avila and Jonathan Lucroy.
Castillo, 31 next April, had a career year at the plate in what looks like it will be his only season in Baltimore. Through 365 plate appearances, the slugger batted .282/.323/.490 with a career-best 20 homers. He was limited to 96 games in large part due to a testicular injury that was suffered when a ball was fouled into his groin. Castillo was sidelined for about three weeks and got off to a slow start upon returning before he closed out the year with a blistering finish. (He also missed 10 days early in the season with a minor bout of shoulder tendinitis.)
Defense has long been a knock on Castillo, but his 2017 work behind the plate showed legitimate signs of improvement as well. Castillo caught a whopping 49 percent of runners that attempted to steal against the Orioles’ pitching staff, and his oft-panned pitch-framing skills finished at a roughly league-average level, per Baseball Prospectus.
While it’s certainly possible that the O’s could kick the tires on a reunion with Castillo, the team has top prospect Chance Sisco all but ready to take over a prominent big league role in 2018. He’ll presumably pair with backup Caleb Joseph to form the Orioles’ primary catching duo in 2018 and beyond, though 26-year-old Austin Wynns is also an option to see some time behind the dish of Sisco proves to be in need of additional development.
Moving on from Castillo and going with an affordable combination of Sisco, Joseph and/or Wynns will allow the Orioles to dedicate more of their offseason resources to the starting rotation, which is clearly the organization’s top overall need.