Mariners bolster catcher position


The Seattle Mariners have traded right-handed relief pitcher Yoervis Medina to the Chicago Cubs for catcher Welington Castillo. The acquisition of the right-handed hitting catcher represents an incremental upgrade that adds needed catching depth and a quality right-handed bat to the team’s 25-man roster.

Going into 2015, Seattle was dangerously thin at the catcher spot. The team’s poor depth was clearly evident by the lopsided distribution of playing time during the first 37 games of the season. Mike Zunino has played 285.2 innings behind the plate – fourth highest for any player on the team – compared to Jesus Sucre’s 48 innings. This uneven allocation wasn’t sustainable for a 162-game season, especially for a team with postseason ambitions.

Castillo – the Cubs’ 2014 back-up catcher – became expendable after the Chicago traded for starter Miguel Montero and signed free agent David Ross to be their back-up during the offseason. Since debuting with Chicago in 2010, the 28-year-old has posted a .252/.320/.398 triple slash – batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage, which represents a major offensive upgrade over Sucre–.186/.200/.206 during 109 career plate appearances.

Year Tm PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2010 CHC 21 20 3 6 4 0 1 5 1 7 .300 .333 .650 .983
2011 CHC 13 13 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 4 .154 .154 .154 .308
2012 CHC 190 170 16 45 11 0 5 22 17 51 .265 .337 .418 .754
2013 CHC 428 380 41 104 23 0 8 32 34 97 .274 .349 .397 .746
2014 CHC 417 380 28 90 19 0 13 46 26 102 .237 .296 .389 .686
2015 CHC 47 43 5 7 2 0 2 5 3 12 .163 .234 .349 .583
6 Yrs 1116 1006 93 254 59 0 29 110 81 273 .252 .320 .398 .717
162 Game Avg. 583 526 49 133 31 0 15 57 42 143 .252 .320 .398 .717
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/19/2015.

While Castillo has been a better offensive player than Zunino, the 25-year-old will remain the Mariners’ starting catcher since he’s regarded as a superior defender with more power potential than Castillo. Prospect Insider founder and co-host of The Steve Sandmeyer Show on 1090 The Fan – Jason A. Churchill – recently explained in great detail how Zunino’s value goes far beyond his triple slash.

Although Medina had established himself as a fixture with the league-leading Seattle bullpen last season, he was demoted to Class-AAA Tacoma on May 3 after experiencing command issues. The 26-year-old will report to Class-AAA Iowa, but will likely find himself being added to an inconsistent Chicago bullpen before too long.

The Mariners will have two more years of control over Castillo – who is making $2.1 million in 2015 – before he’s eligible for free agency in 2018. Since the six-year veteran isn’t an offensive liability, manager Lloyd McClendon can use him at designated hitter or as a right-handed pinch hitter when Zunino is behind the plate. Another option could be to use Zunino as a designated hitter in order to give him a break from behind-the-plate while keeping his bat in the batting order. These types of options weren’t available to the Mariners’ skipper with the light-hitting Sucre as the back-up.

This is a move that immediately helps the Mariners at the catching position, but also improves their overall roster. In the big scheme of things, this trade is a minor deal. But, once again, General Manager Jack Zduriencik has improved the team by parting ways with a player with potential who didn’t likely fit into the the team’s plans. It’s not a flashy move, but this is how contenders improve during the regular season – incrementally.

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