Although the Chicago Cubs publicly indicate they’re leaning toward carrying three catchers to start the season, it remains more likely than not that Welington Castillo will be dealt before April 5. Let’s call it 51/49.
To that end, Bruce Levine reports that the Baltimore Orioles are looking for a catcher, and sources say they’ve contacted the Cubs about Castillo. With Matt Wieters coming off of arm surgery (and set to start the year on the DL), and a variety of so-so options behind him, the Orioles have always made sense as a possible trade partner (especially when you consider that the other team with an obvious catcher to trade – Toronto with Dioner Navarro – plays in the Orioles’ division).
Interestingly, Levine couches the rumor in reference to the Cubs possibly needing a starting pitcher. I’m not sure I see it quite the same way, but the Orioles are reportedly considering moving lefty Brian Matusz, a 28-year-old former top pitching prospect who has emerged as an excellent lefty reliever. Could the Cubs bring out the latent starting upside of another former top Orioles pitching prospect? Or could they use Matusz in the bullpen? Or could they flip Matusz to the Mets – who apparently really want him, but don’t want to pick up all of his $3.2 million salary – for prospect(s)? Or maybe the Cubs could just pick up prospect(s) from the Orioles?
Obviously there’s a whole lot of spitballing there, but at least it’s a concrete rumor connecting Castillo to a particular team. Now we’ll see if anything pops up from the Baltimore side.
More generally, Gordon Wittenmyer indicates that at least four teams have inquired with the Cubs about Castillo this Spring. A deal, if it happens, was always most likely to come at the end of Spring Training, and Castillo has certainly done the Cubs a solid by putting together a very good Spring. I’m sure there’s interest. The question is whether there’s a team with sufficiently strong interest to give the Cubs something of value.
If not, the Cubs really could elect to go with three catchers to start the season (though the apparent decision to start Javier Baez in the big leagues makes that a little trickier), and then figure out how to proceed with the roster when Kris Bryant is ready to come up, presumably in late April.
As I said, I’d still call it something like 51/49 that there’s a pre-Opening Day trade.