Yesterday, we discussed the possibility of the Chicago Cubs pursuing catcher Russell Martin this offseason to accomplish a variety of stated goals, from adding positional offense to adding veteran leadership to adding catching depth.
The not-so-unstated discomfort in that discussion: what happens with incumbent starter Welington Castillo? As I wrote yesterday, there are plenty of reasons to hang your hat on Castillo as the continued starter for the Cubs, given that the offense is better than average for a catcher, the defense is solid in all phases besides framing, and he’s a cost-controlled 27-year-old. I can talk myself into pairing Castillo with someone like Martin, and going with a 65/35 playing time split in favor of Martin – sounds like a pretty badass catching setup to me – though you do have to debate the use of resources there.
And what of Castillo’s role going forward with the Cubs? Would he be retained as a back-up? Can he stay the long-term starter? Each of Castillo and GM Jed Hoyer spoke to those issues yesterday, but fell short of resounding commitments.
“I really believe in Wely,” Hoyer told Patrick Mooney. “I think there’s a really good full season in there. Hopefully, he can get to that place where he can be consistent all year, but he certainly worked hard at it and he’s a really good kid. His name doesn’t get mentioned a lot when you talk about our established young veterans, but I think he can be in that mix as well.”
I think that actually does a fairly good job of summing up our collective feelings on Castillo: there’s a lot to like there, and he could be very good. He could even become a core guy. But he isn’t there yet, and may never get there, so discussions of Castillo are always imbued with the faintest hint of tepidity. You can read Mooney’s piece for more from Hoyer.
For his part, Castillo, too, seems to know the score.
“I feel like [I can be a core player],” Castillo told Gordon Wittenmyer. “But I can’t get too comfortable and say that I’m going to be here forever. This is a business. I have to keep working hard. Whatever is happening, you’ve just got to focus on getting better and try to win games.”
(Wittenmyer’s piece includes some thoughts from Cubs catching instructor Mike Borzello, who has very high praise for Castillo.)
All in all, it feels like the door to a possible move behind the plate is open. And not open in the same way that the Cubs’ front office will say that every avenue to improve the team is open. As I’ve said: if the Cubs are going to add a significant bat to the everyday(ish) lineup next year, there are only so many plausible spots to do it. Catcher is one of them, as much as I do like Castillo’s overall skill set.
I suppose that is to say: I’m on board with the Cubs exploring pursuing someone like Russell Martin, but, if the bidding gets out of whack with the Cubs’ best allocation of resources, I’m not going to be too bummed to see them go into next season with Castillo the starter, and a really solid back-up catcher behind him.