Bats: Left – Throws: Right
Born: June 18, 1987 (Age 29)
If this were the 2013 offseason, Jason Castro would be lining up the offers in free agency, after the then 26-year-old made his first All Star team and posted a line of .276/.350/.485, with 18 home runs (6th among catchers), 56 RBI, a 129 wRC+, and a 4.4 fWAR (4th among catcher’s with at least 400 plate appearances).
Unfortunately for Castro, the ensuing seasons haven’t lived up to the promise that he displayed in ’13. He has seen his K% increase, his average plummet from .276 in his All-Star campaign to .210 in 2016, and his OPS drop from .835 in 2013, to .684 last year.
The former first round draft pick in 2008 (10th overall) hits the open market in a year when multiple teams are looking to upgrade behind the plate, and despite some declining numbers the last several seasons, teams will still be intrigued by Castro’s power potential, strong pitch framing stats, and age.
Since 2013, the left-handed slugging catcher has hit 54 home runs (tied for 9th among major league catchers), scored 185 runs (9th), and compiled an 8.5 fWAR (tied for 7th). One of Castro’s biggest weaknesses is facing lefty pitching, as he’s posted a .536 OPS lifetime against southpaws, and had a .478 OPS in 2016. Castro has only posted one season of a .620 OPS or greater against left-handed pitching (2013), so at this juncture teams might be looking to utilize Castro against right-handers only.
Defensively, Castro has received high marks in terms of pitch framing, listed as the fifth best framing catcher in all of baseball last year, according to StatCorner. Castro was credited with an additional 96 strike calls in 2016, which resulted in an extra 0.92 calls per game. His throwing game has been under league average for his career, registering a 26% caught stealing percentage, when the league average has been 28%.
Castro’s best season of throwing out potential base stealers was in 2015, where he had a 36% caught stealing rate (6th in MLB). The 2015 season was also considered his best for defensive runs saved (DRS), where he posted 4 DRS. The years prior and in ’16, Castro was negative in that category (-2 DRS in ’16).
MLB Trade Rumors has Castro pegged for two-years and $15 million. That seems like a fair estimate, though I could see teams offering a three-year deal for around $24 million, since there are a number of potential landing spots for the 29-year-old, in what’s been described as a “thin” catching market.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported Friday that the Rays have offered Castro a contract, and “are right in the thick of things and being considered by Jason” according to the report. While an earlier report from Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports says that Castro is weighing offers from three AL clubs, though it’s unclear whether the Rays are one of the three. Potential interested suitors include the aforementioned Rays, Twins, Braves, White Sox, Orioles, and Astros.
The Mets should pass on Castro. When comparing Castro’s numbers from 2013-16, and Travis d’Arnaud‘s stats from the same period, they have near identical slash lines:
Castro: .232/.308/.401 .709 OPS
d’Arnaud: .245/.311/.393 .704 OPS
The main difference between the two is health, as Castro has played in 463 games during that four-year stretch, compared to d’Arnaud’s 281 games. With that said, the Mets should afford d’Arnaud one more chance to secure the full-time catching spot, as he was battling a right rotator cuff strain last year, and many think he was playing hurt even when he returned from the disabled list. That would make sense, since his power was seemingly nonexistent and he had a 22% caught stealing rate, a year removed from throwing out a career high 33% of would be base stealers.
With d’Arnaud entering arbitration for the first time, and two years younger than Castro, it makes sense for the Mets to utilize d’Arnaud instead of signing Castro to a multi-year contract, and hope that with health d’Arnaud will rebound and produce like most Mets fans had hoped he would upon the Toronto Blue Jays mega trade in the winter of 2012.