Castillo's no longer an Oriole, but his 2017 contract and solid play may have a lasting reach -

Dan Connolly

Castillo’s no longer an Oriole, but his 2017 contract and solid play may have a lasting reach

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

Catcher Welington Castillo’s decision Monday to decline his $7 million option for 2018 and become a free agent wasn’t a surprise, and it probably won’t have a huge impact on the playing field.

The 30-year-old backstop hit .282 with 20 homers in 96 games. He threw out 49 percent of would-be basestealers, the best among the 29 qualifiers in the majors, and had a 5.60 catcher’s ERA, the second worst mark among MLB qualifiers.

By all accounts, he was a solid player and a solid guy and he did his job fairly well – meaning the $6 million contract he signed last December worked out swimmingly for both parties, because now he should get a multi-year deal on the open market. But he may have also helped the Orioles going forward, and not just because his presence made it easier to give prospect Chance Sisco more seasoning.

Castillo’s 2017 contract, and subsequent play during that contract, is significant for two reasons.

One, it further emphasizes Baltimore as a great place for hitters to re-establish themselves for a year. Add Castillo to the recent list of position players, along with Nelson Cruz, Nate McLouth, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo, who have had strong walk seasons while playing for the Orioles and playing half their games in cozy Camden Yards.

As frustrating as it is that no quality starters want to pitch there, especially if it is on a one-year deal to re-establish themselves, the opposite can be said for hitters. And, so, the Orioles can continue that sales job this winter when a seasoned hitter is looking for a reasonable “pillow contract.”

Perhaps the most significant aspect of a successful pact with Castillo, however, is that it was the Orioles’ first toe-dip into the opt-out-clause waters.

OK, so Dan Duquette, the club’s executive vice president, doesn’t view opt-outs and player options as the same thing. Really, though, it’s semantics.

Opt-outs are often connected to longer, higher-valued deals that are a significant part of a club’s budget going forward, and so a player’s decision, say halfway through a six-year deal, can have a dramatic effect on how a front office uses its available resources up to that point and after it.


Duquette has avoided “opt-out clauses,” despite the fact they are exceptionally popular in the game now and can be a determining factor in a player’s decision to choose one team over another.

But maybe the deal with Castillo, and how it worked out, softens that stance.

Because instead of feeling handcuffed by Castillo’s pending decision, the Orioles felt like they were in a win-win situation. A $7 million payout for 2018 was reasonable if Castillo chose to stick with the club. But the Orioles are comfortable with their backstop options of Caleb Joseph and Sisco now that Castillo is testing the market.

If the Orioles and Duquette start offering the player-option/opt-out scenario more often, it won’t be a reach to trace it directly back to the Castillo contract.

The bottom line here is that Castillo is no longer an Oriole, and probably won’t return unless he can’t find a multi-year deal elsewhere. But he did his job while on the roster and maybe created a few incidental ripples for the club in the future.



  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    November 7, 2017 at 7:45 am

    Where’s the Beef?

    • Dan Connolly

      November 7, 2017 at 8:28 am

      We’ll find out in the next couple months.

  2. Orial

    November 7, 2017 at 8:17 am

    Read somewhere Dan(maybe you) that Arizona’s ERA came down when Castillo left and O’s ERA went up when Castillo came. Interesting. Second thought/question- do you see Camden Yards ever being altered to be more pitcher friendly? Seems O’s build a power team for the Park only to see it flounder on the road and of course scare pitchers away. Now another small point-Yankee Stadium is not exactly pitcher friendly. Why are pitchers NOT afraid to go there?

    • Dan Connolly

      November 7, 2017 at 8:31 am

      I doubt dimensions will change. As for pitching in Yankee Stadium (or any AL East park besides the Trop) if you pay enough and offer enough years no one is scared to pitch anywhere. But if you aren’t overpaying it’s tough. And that makes 1-year deals for Ps in the AL East rather rare.

    • Raymo

      November 7, 2017 at 8:34 am

      Excellent question about the ballparks. I’d love to see it expanded into a full length posting comparing all parks in the AL.

  3. karks

    November 7, 2017 at 9:26 am

    To me, it’s hard to blame Castillo for the staff ERA this year. I can’t imagine that Tillman, Ubaldo and Miley would have been any less a disaster with a young Rick Dempsey back there. Now, perhaps Welly didn’t know them as well as he could have (with him being gone for the WBC), but the rotation was a disaster regardless.

    He’s a darn good player and will get paid. But who would have thought he’d have (statistically, at least) that much better of a season than Wieters?

    It’s funny, we criticize Duquette often for the players he lets go. But many of them fall down a sinkhole after leaving (Markakis, Chen, Wieters). It seems the less well known players we let go are the ones who come back to bite us.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      November 7, 2017 at 12:08 pm

      I’d hardly say that Markakis has fallen down a hole since leaving. The boy has put up some solid numbers in Atlanta.

      I’ll give you Wieters to a degree, but let’s see how he responds next year before making that call.

      • ATCguy

        November 7, 2017 at 1:24 pm

        Yeah, I’d have to agree that ‘Kakes has had decent ‘success’ down there with a rebuilding Atlanta franchise… especially with the young cast of teammates he has around him.

    • Strovel

      November 7, 2017 at 11:58 pm

      Markakis has been exceptionally unexceptional for the last five years with an OPS+ of 99. A far cry from the impact player he was for his first several years. He could be the first 3,000-hit player (non-juicer) to not be in the HOF.

  4. Churchton

    November 8, 2017 at 3:15 am

    Wish we only kept Davis for a year

  5. 54orioles

    November 8, 2017 at 9:36 am

    Does this loss give the O’s a additional draft pick if he is signed by another club?

  6. Ben1

    November 8, 2017 at 7:45 pm

    Duquette is incompetent as a GM in this century. Angelos deserves him

  7. mlbbirdfan

    November 9, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    I’m willing to bet staff ERA goes down AT LEAST 1.00 ER per game. Regardless of his good qualities something is dreadfully wrong with Welington behind the plate

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