We’re mostly status quo on the Welington Castillo trade situation – which is to say, he’s still with the Cubs, and still more likely than not to be traded before Opening Day, given the presence of Miguel Montero and David Ross – but manager Joe Maddon weighed in with a little more information on how the Cubs are proceeding, for now, and how Castillo could fit into the mix if he’s not traded.
In short? It doesn’t sound like the Cubs are planning on a significant role for Castillo if they’re forced to carry three catchers.
“If [Castillo] is on the team as a third catcher, it will be difficult [to get playing time],” Maddon said, according to Cubs.com. “Off the top of my head, it would be a situation where we’ll have to find a spot for him to start. You’ll probably want to run for David Ross, you’ll probably want to run for Montero late in the game. You’d probably not be concerned at all about putting Welly back there because of his throwing ability and blocking ability.”
Given that we know Maddon is not one to mince words, and will tell you what’s on his mind, I think we can take this as additional support for the idea that it is more likely than not that Castillo is dealt before Opening Day. The way he describes Castillo’s possible role is that of a back-up to a back-up, and we all know that Castillo is much more valuable than that – or at least he should be.
Further more, the ideal Cubs roster simply doesn’t have three catchers on it. Even if you concede that it’s early, and Maddon definitely wasn’t trying to lay down anything firm just yet, it’s still hard to envision a reasonable mix of three catchers that maximizes their value to the team, rather than eating up a bench spot. The Cubs aren’t going to want Montero starting fewer than three of every five games, which would leave, at most, two out of every five to be divvied up among Castillo and Ross … with the latter possibly getting many of Jon Lester’s starts, which complicates things. And we haven’t even gotten into the fact that the Cubs brought in Montero and Ross for a reason, and it wasn’t to work extra hard to make sure and get Castillo starts. So we’re back to Castillo being a bench guy, who, yes, offers some offensive value, but no speed and no positional versatility.
So, the Cubs will, for now, continue to embrace the theoretical possibility that they could carry three catchers if necessary, but it’s more likely that something will shake out by the start of the season. A team will finally relent on the Cubs’ demands. Or another team will suffer an injury. Or, heaven forbid, Montero or Ross will suffer an injury.
And Maddon made sure to include that in his comments. Crazy things can happen in Spring Training, and we simply don’t know what might be around the corner. So it’ll play out in the coming weeks, and, as other teams’ scouts have a chance to see Castillo, and determine their own needs, something will probably pop up.
Hopefully, the Cubs’ other catchers will remain healthy, and the team will be able to get Castillo somewhere that he can start regularly, while getting a little value out of the deal.
[Note for those asking: Castillo does not have minor league options left, and Theo Epstein has already said that the Cubs will not be trying to get Castillo to AAA as a way around the catching glut. He’ll be on the team, or he’ll be traded.]