The writing on the wall for Welington Castillo was there the moment the Cubs acquired Miguel Montero from the Arizona Diamondbacks during the 2014 Winter Meetings last December. Suddenly, Castillo went from being the starting catcher on non-competitive Cubs teams to a backup on a potentially contending one.
The addition of David Ross a few weeks later further diminished Castillo’s 2015 role. It began to appear that he wouldn’t even be used in a platoon, instead, he would just hang out on the bench. Or, he would be dealt.
But Spring Training came and there were no takers. The lack of a market for a young catcher with unearthed potential was surprising but also potentially indicative of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s demands in exchange for Welly.
He started off the year in limited duty and wasn’t great with a .163/.234/.349 line in a very small 47 plate appearances. From there, the rest is history. Castillo was dealt to the Mariners on May 19 for pitcher Yoervis Medina. He played in six games for them and was shipped to the Diamondbacks in a package for Mark Trumbo and Vidal Nuno.
The move to the desert has been working well for Castillo. Right now he has a .295/.384/.614 (WHAT?!?) slash line in 41 games in Arizona with 11 home runs. Plus, all accounts indicate that his pitch framing, which was considered one of his biggest flaws, has developed nicely. I’m sure there are D’backs fans sitting around asking, “why would anyone give this guy up?”
#BEEFMODE. Welington Castillo is unreal.
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) August 6, 2015
As a Cubs fan, when you look at the result of the trade, it’s easy to get pissed and question why Epstein and Hoyer would trade Castillo for Medina, a guy who has not performed well in either the bigs or AAA since his acquisition.
But, you can’t judge a trade like that. Castillo was coming off his third average year as the Cubs’ starting catcher; his third year of okay hitting and rough pitch framing. He was preventing Miguel Montero from getting more regular at bats. And before anyone unfairly asks why that was a bad thing, remember that Montero was hitting very productively at the start of the season and called better games than Welly.
If you want to criticize David Ross, save that too. Ross was brought in for a reason – to catch Jon Lester and to serve as a clubhouse leader. He has done both of those jobs excellently and all signs indicate that his experience will be invaluable during the young Cubs’ pennant race.
On top of all that, Castillo didn’t play another position. If he had a little more flexibility, he could have potentially gotten a slightly longer leash. But, the knowledge that a slugging Catcher in AA ball who could play Left Field was possibly just a few weeks away made the Cubs realize they needed to do something with Castillo when they did.
I’ll give you this: Yoervis Medina looks like a rough acquisition right now. But he’s the exact type of guy the Cubs target: a big upside guy with previous Major League success but, still, things to work on. We have him for a little longer, too, so maybe his velocity can tick up a couple notches and he can return to being successful in 2016 like he was in 2013 (2.91 ERA/3.86 FIP/3.85 xFIP) and 2014 (2.68 ERA/3.45 FIP/3.59 xFIP).
But here’s what we have to remember about the Castillo trade: we moved Welington because we had a good catching team in Miguel Montero and David Ross already. We acquired a high upside arm with previous major league success in exchange for him. And, we made sure there was a spot for Kyle Schwarber when he was ready, which everyone knew was sooner rather than later. Castillo may be finding success in Arizona and if that success continues, you’re allowed to cheer for him. But don’t let that alter your perception of getting rid of him in the first place.
And, hey, look how much they love him in Arizona! We never let him try Beef Wellington! Go Welly. Keep hitting (and eating) like a mad man!