In a story that will undoubtedly draw to your mind parallels with the Chicago Cubs’ efforts to trade catcher Welington Castillo ….
The Colorado Rockies, who have been rumored to be trying to deal catcher Wilin Rosario for a while now, are reportedly going to convert him into a guy who can play first base and the corner outfield spots. That report comes from Patrick Saunders, and, ultimately, Rockies GM Jeff Bridich.
It would be a nice back-up plan for the Rockies, who also sport Nick Hundley and Michael McKenry behind the plate, if Rosario can become a kind of C/1B/OF utility guy with a big, right-handed bat. Rosario, 25, is entering his first arbitration year (requested $3.3 million, offered $2.8 million), and has played a teeny, tiny bit of first base in his career. He’s not known for his abilities behind the plate, and he rates out below average defensively, and slightly below average in terms of framing.
If Rosario, then, is off the catching trade market, does this help the Cubs’ efforts to deal Castillo? Or is it an indication that guys with decent bats but who are not great behind the plate are not going to find a home in trade? Are the Cubs going to have to get creative like the Rockies?
First thing’s first: I offer this Rosario tale less not a template for what the Cubs could try and do with Castillo. There hasn’t been a whiff of trying Castillo out at other positions, and, even if there were, I’m not sure how well he’d handle them and/or how useful it would be, overall, to the Cubs. Castillo’s value is as a catcher with a bat that is good (with upside) for a catcher. He can quite literally do everything well that a catcher is supposed to do, with the exception of pitch-framing.
Second thing’s second: I’m not sure Castillo isn’t considered more valuable than Rosario. He’s better defensively, though worse at framing. Like Rosario, he’s coming off of a down offensive year, but Castillo was still better by wRC+ (91 versus 86). Rosario has the better raw numbers for his career, but he also plays at Coors Field. By wRC+, which is park adjusted, Castillo is actually the better career offensive player (99 versus 98). Further, Castillo is set to make just $2.1 million in 2015. That’s not only less than the $3ish million Rosario will make, but it likely means a lower salary during the next two arbitration years, too.
Third thing’s third: we have no idea how aggressively the Rockies were actually trying to deal Rosario, or what their demands may have been. Maybe they didn’t really want to move him at all.
So, all in all, I wouldn’t read too much into what the Rockies are reportedly doing with Rosario when it comes to the Castillo market. It’s still likely that the Cubs will be able to find a reasonable deal for Castillo (just don’t expect an enormous return), but it may take getting to Spring Training, and teams seeing what they’ve got (and maybe an injury pops up). The Rangers likely just exited the market after picking up Carlos Corporan from the Astros yesterday, so the options, for now, are limited.
It’s also possible that the Rockies are just posturing, and still wind up dealing Rosario.
In which case, this whole thing has just been an academic discussion, and created an opportunity for you to fight in the comments about whether the Cubs should try and figure out a way to carry three catchers despite likely having just five bench spots.
I will admit that swapping Luis Valbuena for Dexter Fowler this week made it slightly more possible, given that Arismendy Alcantara can now be an infield AND outfield backup, and one of the other “bench” guys is now the starting third baseman. That creates a plausible bench of Alcantara, Denorfia, Castillo, Ross, and one of Olt/Sweeney/Lake (with La Stella being the “starting” third baseman for counting purposes). In this kind of scenario, the Cubs would then have a few more weeks to deal Castillo, because he could be the guy bumped whenever Kris Bryant is called up. In the interim, he can catch some, and pinch hit. (And this would give Joe Maddon the ability to do the rare in-game catching platoon, switching out Miguel Montero for a righty if and when a lefty reliever enters the game – you can’t do that if you have only two catchers on the roster).
I still don’t think that affords quite enough flexibility on the roster when you’re trying to maximize early-season wins, but, as I said, it’s now plausible.