Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

welington castillo featureBack in December, it seemed impossible. By January, it was a transparent threat. By February, it was a vague possibility. By March, it was preferred by the manager.

And, here we stand in April: Welington Castillo is still with the Cubs, who are set to open the season on Sunday with three catchers on the roster.

The path that got the Cubs here is almost certainly full of a great deal of behind-the-scenes negotiating, but, with Dioner Navarro untraded in Toronto and Wilin Rosario untraded in Colorado, I’m thinking there was a lot of chicken being played around baseball – and nobody has blinked. That doesn’t mean nothing will happen in the catching market before Sunday/Monday, but it sure looks like the Cubs really will start the season with Miguel Montero the starter, David Ross the backup, and Welington Castillo the way-too-good-to-be-third-but-he-is third catcher.

We’ve been looking at this issue almost exclusively from the perspective of the Cubs – how do they accommodate three catchers, how could they be used, etc. – but it’s interesting to think about this from the perspective of a multi-year starting catcher whose team just brought in not one, but two catchers to supplant him. If you think it was hard for Kris Bryant to accept not making the big league team to start the year, just imagine being Castillo.

Manager Joe Maddon said that he told Castillo he’ll see time later in games as a pinch-hitter or runner, and may occasionally see starts (, ESPN, CSN). Maddon explained that he doesn’t want to lose Castillo because of the value of catching, and how difficult it is to find a good catcher. Sure, it’s a luxury to have three catchers, but Maddon can figure out how to use them as well as possible, and maybe something happens in a week or two that makes the Cubs happy they held onto Castillo. I do also like the theoretical possibility of the Cubs taking Montero out late in games against tough lefties in favor of Castillo or Ross – something you couldn’t realistically do with only one catcher on the bench for fear of getting stuck without a catcher late in the game.

For his part, Castillo says everything you’d expect him to, here in this ESPN piece. He thought he was going to be traded, but he’s going to prepare like he’s going to play every day, and he’ll get a shot eventually.

Whether that’s with the Cubs because of an injury, or with another team because of a trade, I think Castillo’s right. He’ll get another more regular shot at some point. If the Cubs do trade Castillo at some point, they’ve got defensively-inclined veteran Taylor Teagarden at AAA Iowa, as well as Rafael Lopez.

As for Opening Night, assuming there is no last-minute deal, Castillo will join David Ross, Arismendy Alcantara (if Tommy La Stella is the “starter” at second base), and two of Matt Szczur, Ryan Sweeney, and Jonathan Herrera as the Cubs’ bench to open the year. I’d expect that to be finalized before the club heads north tomorrow morning.

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