Last week, Bruce Levine reported that the Baltimore Orioles had some interest in Chicago Cubs catcher Welington Castillo, which made plenty of sense given Matt Wieters’ recovery from arm surgery and the so-so depth behind him. At the same time, I wondered if lefty Brian Matusz, whom the Orioles are believed to be shopping, would be discussed in a possible deal.
Well, Levine has followed up his initial report to indicate that, yes, the Cubs and Orioles did talk about a Castillo/Matusz swap … but the Cubs weren’t interested.
That could be a signal that the Cubs are preferring a prospect return in a deal for Castillo, because Matusz – a solid lefty reliever – could probably help this Cubs team. Alternatively, it could be something specific about Matusz that didn’t entice the Cubs. The 28-year-old was a former top starting pitching prospect, but didn’t really find much success in the Orioles rotation and was moved to the bullpen, where he’s been good, but short of dominant. The Cubs do have a number of interesting lefty options outside of Phil Coke, and, with some overflow from the rotation competition, perhaps adding a second veteran lefty reliever wasn’t attractive. Understandable.
Matusz is also set to make $3.2 million in 2015, with one more year of control thereafter. Perhaps that’s just not enough value for Castillo (even if the Cubs were going to try and spin Matusz off to a bullpen-needier team, for example), which I could also understand. Although the Cubs obviously decided they’d prefer to have two different catchers in-house, Castillo is still young, inexpensive, has big offensive upside (for a catcher), and is excellent defensively. His value in trade has always been tough to peg.
If the Cubs are going to deal Castillo before the start of the season, they’ve got but a few days left. I still think that’s the most likely outcome here, but everyone has acknowledged the real possibility that the Cubs could begin the season with a third catcher – Castillo – on the roster.
If you started wondering whether the injury to Christian Vazquez was going to put the Red Sox in the market for a catcher, you were right. But if you thought the catcher would be Castillo, you were wrong. The Red Sox will reportedly pick up 26-year-old Sandy Leon from the Nationals in a deal that makes plenty of sense for Boston. Leon is out of options, and wasn’t likely to make the Nationals. He won’t cost them much in trade, and he isn’t a guy that the Red Sox would be frustrated to have to replace with top catching prospect Blake Swihart if the latter shows he’s ready, or to have to dump if Vazquez’s injury is shorter term than expected. Leon is great defensively, but light with the bat. He can pair with Ryan Hanigan until Vazquez is back or until Swihart is ready. This makes plenty of sense.
For the Cubs, though, it removes a tradable catcher from the market to a team that probably wasn’t going to aggressively pursue Castillo (given the presence of Vazquez and Swihart long term). That’s potentially good news.