Welington Castillo, a seven-year, major-league veteran who recently was non-tendered a contract by the Arizona Diamondbacks, has emerged as the Orioles’ primary target at catcher.
According to industry sources, the Orioles have had continued negotiations with Castillo’s representatives since the winter meetings ended Thursday in Washington D.C., and there is optimism that a multi-year deal could get done. But it is still firmly in the discussion phase.
The club is looking for a catcher to share time with Caleb Joseph now that long-time starter Matt Wieters is a free agent. Earlier this week, Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said Wieters remained on the club’s wish list. But there’s growing concern within the organization that the Orioles might miss out on currently available catchers if Wieters does not sign for another month.
Wieters’ agent, Scott Boras, said Wednesday at the winter meetings that, in his experience, his catchers don’t usually sign until January as teams work to find the best fit. And that could be the case with Wieters, Boras suggested.
The Orioles have had interest in other free-agent backstops this winter such as Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta, but Castillo seems to be the catcher the Orioles are most aggressively pursuing right now.
The 29-year-old Castillo hit .264 with 14 homers, 68 RBIs and a .745 OPS in 113 games for the Diamondbacks in 2016. He set a career-high in RBIs, plate appearances (457) and strikeouts (121).
Known more as an offensive catcher, Castillo threw out 38 percent of would-be basestealers last year, a career-best mark for a full season. But he also set a career-high with 10 passed balls, tying for most in the National League. His pitch-framing skills in 2016 were rated slightly in the negative category – below Joseph’s, but ahead of Wieters’.
One National League scout that has watched Castillo routinely over the years said he believes the Dominican Republic native still has upside defensively, but hasn’t been as consistent as he’s capable of being behind the plate.
John Russell, the Orioles’ bench coach, is considered one of the best catching instructors in the game.