A very quiet start to the offseason is now starting to trickle out this week. The Chicago White Sox kicked things off and signed the second-best catcher on the free agent market. Welington Castillo agreed to a two-year, $15 million deal with the White Sox on Friday.
Castillo becomes the biggest free agent hitter to sign this season, though he is also the only player with 300-plus plate appearances to sign so far. All the same Castillo's signing still carries weight and makes for a nice addition by the White Sox.
In Castillo, Chicago lands a 30-year-old catcher who should provide plenty of punch with his bat. His career turnaround started in 2015 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. In 457 plate appearances with Arizona, Castillo posted a .264/.322/.423 slash line, .319 wOBA, 14 home runs and 91 wRC+.
Castillo then signed with the Baltimore Orioles last offseason on a one-year deal and his decision delivered substantial benefits. In only 365 plate appearances with the Orioles, Castillo set career-best marks across the board.
In his age-30 season, Castillo posted a .282/.323/.490 slash line with a .344 wOBA, 113 wRC+, 20 home runs and earned a 2.7 fWAR. Amongst catchers with 350-plus plate appearances, Castillo finished eighth in offensive rating (3.6).
Castillo lands in another hitter-friendly park and should find himself in the thick of the White Sox lineup. There is quality talent surrounding him with Yoan Moncada, Avisail Garcia, Jose Abreu and Tim Anderson, which should also provide Castillo with RBI opportunities.
He will bring a quality bat to Chicago, though it also comes with defensive limitations. Amongst qualified catchers with 5,000-plus pitches caught, Castillo rated 24th out of 35 catchers in StatCorner's pitch-frame rating.
There are positives with Castillo's defense that should help establish him as the everyday catcher in Chicago and not be a liability behind the plate. He rated received high marks behind the plate in FanGraphs rSB, which measures the Defensive Runs Saved based on Stolen Base Runs Above Average. Castillo's 5 rSB rated fourth amongst catchers with 750-plus innings.
The positives of Castillo's bat and ability to help limit stolen bases are nice and for only $7.5 million per season, which would make him the 11th-highest paid catcher in baseball next season per Spotrac, it's a solid deal. However, the pitch-framing issues present a major problem.
Three of the White Sox' projected starting pitchers next season are under the age of 25. Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito and Carson Fulmer have also each thrown under 100 innings pitched in their young careers.
Given all three pitchers also are still wild with their command and learning to pitch to a MLB strike zone, a catcher who loses close strikes rather than gaining strikes is not an ideal match. As a result, Chicago's young starters will lose over 100 potential strikes in a season.
This is still a positive addition for the White Sox. The team is still rebuilding and wins aren't a priority, but Castillo carries veteran experience and turn in another 2-plus WAR season.