The Seattle Mariners have acquired Welington Castillo from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for recently demoted relief pitcher, Yoervis Medina. Castillo is a career .252/.320/.398 hitter, although he is struggling in 2015, hitting just .163/.234/.349 in a backup role behind Miguel Montero. He started off the season fairly well, but is one-for-his-last-18 at the plate.
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Castillo has a strong arm, and good defensive potential, but has not put it together behind the plate thus far in his career. ESPN’s Jesse Rogers pointed out that Chicago pitchers saw their ERA’s skyrocket in games when Castillo was the catcher, and ironically, their ERA’s were much better with current AAA Tacoma C, John Baker.
For years now, the Mariners have had an abundance of righty relievers, so it makes sense that one of them would be involved in a trade. Medina has nasty stuff, but has had consistency issues, and his velocity is on the decline. There isn’t much risk involved here, as the Mariners traded from a position of depth and added a player at a position of need.
We’ll have to see what Lloyd McClendon‘s plan is, but I would assume this means trouble for Jesus Sucre, who hasn’t flashed any kind of upside in 35 career games. It also could mean competition for Mike Zunino, as he continues to strikeout at a shockingly high rate of .415, the fourth-worst in baseball among qualified players.
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However, unless Castillo comes in and tears the cover off the ball, I don’t see him taking too much time from Mike Z. The gap in defensive abilities between the two players is a big one. Zunino was second in the MLB in 2014 in pitch-framing with 168 added strikes, while Castillo was dead last with 183 balls given up. This might account for the significant increase in Chicago pitchers’ ERA with Castillo behind the plate described by Rogers.
Given that Seattle traded a decent player for him, Castillo will get a shot to grab some playing time from Zunino, but his defense is an issue, and he appears to be declining at the plate. Don’t expect this trade to make a big difference immediately, but it is definitely a low-risk-high-reward deal for the Seattle Mariners, that looks like a win for both teams.