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How Will the Twins Replace Jason Castro this Offseason?

One of the first moves the Twins front office made under the Derek Falvey and Thad Levine regime was signing former Houston Astros catcher Jason Castro to a three-year $24.5 million deal. That was a move that paid off well for the Twins over the past three seasons. In 2017, Castro was the Twins primary catcher, and he put up a respectable 2.1 fWAR in 110 games played that season. After missing nearly all of 2018 with a knee injury, Castro had another strong 2019 campaign in a catching role he split 50/50 with Mitch Garver.
Image courtesy of © Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Though Jason Castro wasn’t near the offensive threat that Mitch Garver has been behind the plate, he is no defensive-only catcher a la Drew Butera. In 2019, Castro posted a 103 wRC+, which ranked 15th out of the 36 catchers with at least 250 plate appearances. Factor that in with Castro’s above average pitch framing ability, and solid all-around defense behind the plate, and you have yourselves a pretty good catcher. Now, at the age of 32, Castro is entering free agency and the Twins suddenly find themselves in need of a catcher to back up Mitch Garver. Let’s take a look at some of the options the Twins have.

Free Agency

Perhaps the most obvious place the Twins could look to find the replacement for Jason Castro is on the free agent market. While there won’t be any big-time catchers available in free agency, that is perfectly fine with the Twins as all they need is someone who can be their number two behind Mitch Garver. Some of the names the Twins could be interested in are Robinson Chirinos, Travis d’Arnaud, Alex Avila and Jason Castro himself. Personally, Jason Castro makes the most sense to bring back among this group. The Twins will be looking to replicate the success they had at the catcher position this year, and what better way to do so than by using the same players? While this move would certainly make sense for the Twins, especially on a one- or two- year deal, it is hard to say if it would make a lot of sense for Castro. It is entirely possible that Castro is looking for an opportunity somewhere he could be the primary catching option, and who could blame him? He certainly has the ability to be the primary catcher for roughly half of the organizations in major league baseball, and if he were to return to the Twins, at best he will split time with Garver 50/50, barring an injury.

Trade Market

Another option the Twins could turn to in on the trade market. One team the Twins could reach out to is the Seattle Mariners, and their always-very-eager- to- make-a-trade GM Jerry Dipoto. The Mariners have two quality young catchers in Tom Murphy and Omar Narvaez. Murphy has one year remaining before he becomes arbitration eligible in 2021, while Narvaez is eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter. With a few years of team control remaining for each player, the Mariners could have one of two viewpoints. Either, A, hold onto them as part of the future of the organization, or B, cash them in while they can still return good value, and continue to build up their strong farm system. If the answer is B, I think the Twins could make an excellent trade partner for them, given the sheer depth of the Twins farm system, and value that either one of these two catchers would bring to the team.

Internal Options

If the Twins don’t find anything they like in either free agency or on the trading block, they could always turn internally. Perhaps the most likely option, if this were the case, would be to give Willians Astudillo extended playing time as a catcher. While this would certainly be a fan favorite choice, it is still a little dicey trusting Astudillo behind the plate that often, especially with his offensive struggles mitigating his ability to make up for his poor defense.

After Astudillo, their top two catching prospects within the organization are Ryan Jeffers and Ben Rortvedt. While both are solid catching options, they each have only played partial seasons at AA with zero experience at the AAA level. Turning to one of these two to start the season would require a big jump that they might not be quite ready for. A fourth option would be Tomas Telis, who posted an impressive .330/.364/.490 slash line in 82 games for the Rochester Red Wings this season, albeit in the extreme offensive environment that was Triple-A this season. Telis does have brief MLB experience playing for the Texas Rangers and Miami Marlins before he came over to the Twins organization, so he should be ready if the Twins were to call his number.

While the Twins main focus will certainly be around addressing the starting rotation, filling the hole left by Jason Castro cannot go overlooked. One thing that needs to be at the forefront of the Twins minds when making this decision is in case of an injury, is this a player we trust to step up as the primary Twins catcher in his absence? If that answer is no, they should probably look to an alternative option, to avoid a replay of the 2018 Twins catching situation.

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32 Comments

Coming off knee surgery, Castro was not to be counted on for any meaningful 2019 contribution at all, according to my off-season plan. Boy was I wrong. I think he's a better bet for 2020 than Astudillo, as a backup, so unless the FO somehow wanted to rely on Telis (I think he's considered average defensively), Plan A for me would be to see if Jason wants to go year to year, the rest of the way in his career.

    • SQUIRREL, gunnarthor, Twins33 and 9 others like this
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Richard Swerdlick
Oct 24 2019 04:08 AM
Unless Jason finds a dry free agent market for his services, I don't see him returning. I expect the Twins to replace him with an internal candidate.
    • gunnarthor likes this
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Tommygun921
Oct 24 2019 05:03 AM
I think Castro can get 2-3 year deal from a non-contending team. If he wants to play for a contender I think he'll have to settle for a 1-2 year deal and probably take on a 50/50 role (Barring injury) like he had this year at best. If he'll take a one year deal I think he'll stay in Minnesota. Otherwise I'd like to see the Twins spend the money on pitching.
    • ashbury and birdwatcher like this
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Old Twins Cap
Oct 24 2019 06:15 AM

How good is Tellis behind the plate?

 

If he's decent, you start the season with him as a back-up -- you always have Willians in the background -- but then you look at which one of Rortvedt or Jeffers is a better fit at mid-season.

 

Sounds like Rortvedt is a defensive stud.

A agree Castro was OK in 2019. I find it amusing though when comparing the Turtle to Castro offensively..that they feel Castro was the better hitter? Really? Defensively, Castro is better but its not like Turtle cost the Twins games when he caught. There is a decided anti Turtle bias on this site.

 

I think they should retain Astudillo as an all around backup to play many positions. Utility players are hard to find like that. Telis had an excellent season at AAA. Better than expected. He is not a defensive liability and should be give a shot. He can also hit...even in the so called AAA offensive environment. (He is not a HR hitter and it was HR's that ballooned in AAA this year) Sawyer is also serviceable.

 

Twins would not suffer if they brought Castro back. Give Garver a bit more playing time and spot Castro...and occasionally Astudillo. That should work fine.

    • jz7233 likes this

A agree Castro was OK in 2019. I find it amusing though when comparing the Turtle to Castro offensively..that they feel Castro was the better hitter? Really? Defensively, Castro is better but its not like Turtle cost the Twins games when he caught. There is a decided anti Turtle bias on this site.

I think they should retain Astudillo as an all around backup to play many positions. Utility players are hard to find like that. Telis had an excellent season at AAA. Better than expected. He is not a defensive liability and should be give a shot. He can also hit...even in the so called AAA offensive environment. (He is not a HR hitter and it was HR's that ballooned in AAA this year) Sawyer is also serviceable.

Twins would not suffer if they brought Castro back. Give Garver a bit more playing time and spot Castro...and occasionally Astudillo. That should work fine.

people feel Castro was the better hitter because Castro had both a higher OBP and a higher SLG.

If there's a bias, IMO it's a bias towards Astudillo, not against him.
    • Mike Sixel, gunnarthor, Twins33 and 10 others like this

I think Castro's future is like Suzuki's (and most league average veteran catchers). A series of 1-2 year deals.

 

I'm curious what the Twins will do. I think Garver is a lock as a 60% starter at minimum. I also think Austudillo's future is as a utility player and 3rd catcher. It would be nice to get a defensive specialist who can hit at Castro's level and mentor Garver.

My hope is they replace Castro with... Jason Castro. It's imperative to have a solid backup to split time with Garver, or take over full time if injuries play out that way.

We seem to forget that Garver has a history of concussions and one more foul tip to the dome could force him out of the position.
    • USAFChief, birdwatcher, Twins33 and 5 others like this
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Battle ur tail off
Oct 24 2019 09:09 AM

I'd love him back on a 1-2 year deal at a price that makes sense for the Twins. If they aren't able to get him back, someone that is great defensively with MLB experience would be my choice. 

 

 

    • birdwatcher likes this
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LA VIkes Fan
Oct 24 2019 09:21 AM

 

people feel Castro was the better hitter because Castro had both a higher OBP and a higher SLG.

If there's a bias, IMO it's a bias towards Astudillo, not against him.

Agreed. I just don't get the Turtle love here. He's a mediocre MLB player both offensively and defensively. He is serviceable but below average at a bunch of positions and he is a mediocre bat with a low OBP, low OPS (below .700!), and no power to make up for that. Good guy as a 25th-28th guy on a contending team and a guy you're always looking to upgrade from. Frankly, he reminds me of many a Twin in the bad old days - barely good enough to be on a MLB roster for a lousy team but in those days, starting for the Twins more often than not. 

 

I agree with the premise of the article - we need a good #2 catcher since it's been made clear that Garver will only catch 50-60% of the time. Garver, the FO and Rocco all think that kind of usage makes him as effective as he was last year. Maybe he gets a little time at 1B if Cron isn't re-signed but I'm betting he has another year of 300-400 ABs if he doesn't have to miss time on the IL. I'm in favor of re-signing Castro even if it means a 2 year deal. If we can't get him, Robinson Chirinos is my first choice, followed by either a trade for one of the 2 young Seattle catchers or Tellis.  

If Castro doesn't return, i'd like to see what the Padres wants for Austin Hedges.

    • birdwatcher likes this

My hope is they replace Castro with... Jason Castro. It's imperative to have a solid backup to split time with Garver, or take over full time if injuries play out that way.

We seem to forget that Garver has a history of concussions and one more foul tip to the dome could force him out of the position.


Agree. But if they roll the dice on a different veteran, with the plan for Rortverdt and, or, Jeffers, to be up at some point, I'm ok with that. Not thrilled, but ok.
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birdwatcher
Oct 24 2019 10:36 AM

 

My hope is they replace Castro with... Jason Castro. It's imperative to have a solid backup to split time with Garver, or take over full time if injuries play out that way.

We seem to forget that Garver has a history of concussions and one more foul tip to the dome could force him out of the position.

 

Concur. If I'm the GM, he gets a choice of two years at the price my guys say he's worth on the market, or a one year deal at a premium rate at the top end of what he's worth. I give his agent a deadline to decide among those two or Door # it's been real bye bye. 

 

If Jeffers or Rortvedt look to be an upgrade by the end of next season, I trade Castro and hope for one of those Drew Butera-Miguel Sulbaran-Eduardo Nunez-Adalberto Mejia thingies.

Above, I mentioned a 1-year offer to Jason, but after reviewing Kurt Suzuki's 2-year contract in his mid-30s, maybe I soften a bit on that limitation. But I still like the idea of vesting options (perhaps problematic for a backup) or team-options with a bit more significant buyout than normal (maybe there's a reason they're not common). "Play for us for $4M this year, and give us a team-option for $4M next year too. As protection against a catastrophic injury, that option includes a 25% buyout for you. $5M for sure, possible $8M. And if another team is willing to guarantee more, God bless you and good luck, we've enjoyed having you here." Maybe that's a bit light, but I don't think I'd go up too much more.

    • Mike Sixel and DocBauer like this

If they want someone that can be platooned with Garver the lefty hitting free agents are:

 

Castro, Alex Avila, Stephen Vogt, and Brian McCann

 

Matt Wieters is also a switch hitter.

I think a 2 year 12 million is what he is worth. If he can get 550-650 PA during the 2 years, wouldn't be too far off if he was starting somewhere else. 750-850. Plus the lighter load may allow him to go an extra year or two. He has already made close to 40 million for his career and a 2 year deal will push him past 50. Also with the Twins likely going to the playoffs that has to be a factor to consider. If I were him, I would at least be interested in a 40-50% playing time here on a 2 year deal if the money was right.
    • Mike Sixel likes this
I could see a one year deal with a FA catcher as a stopgap for when one of Jeffers/Rortvedt is ready. Tortuga is a solid 3rd catcher with options, I’d like to keep him in that role.
I’d like to see them re-sign Castro. I have no idea what terms he would demand. Is he okay backing up Garver again, or does he feel like he could start somewhere else? Should be interesting.
    • DocBauer likes this

I agree, but I tried to get a different answer.....

 

mike sixel
2:17 I know players usually take the most money, but should Jason Castro take a bit less to stay in MN, since he'll likely play less than elsewhere, and keep his body more healthy? Or is that 100% backward, and he should go where he plays more and gets more money?

Craig Edwards
2:17 I think he would probably just like to play more and get paid more and presumably the team that offers him the most money plans to do so.

 

https://blogs.fangra...hat-10-24-2019/

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Cooper Carlson
Oct 24 2019 01:40 PM

I would love to bring in Tyler Flowers as a defensive minded backup. He led the league in extra pitch framing strikes, and could help Garver improve even more. Another good way to go (brought up to me by Tom) would be to just go get either of the Astros catchers because they know the Houston secrets to success.

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Andrew Thares
Oct 24 2019 02:01 PM

 

I would love to bring in Tyler Flowers as a defensive minded backup. He led the league in extra pitch framing strikes, and could help Garver improve even more. Another good way to go (brought up to me by Tom) would be to just go get either of the Astros catchers because they know the Houston secrets to success.

I would too, but I left him off the list because I find it hard to believe that the Braves don't pick up the $6 million option for 2020. Especially when you consider the buyout is $2 million and they are already losing another catcher in Brain McCann to retirement. 

I would too, but I left him off the list because I find it hard to believe that the Braves don't pick up the $6 million option for 2020. Especially when you consider the buyout is $2 million and they are already losing another catcher in Brain McCann to retirement. 

See, this is what I get for not doing my homework. :) My rinky-dink offer to Castro, up-thread, isn't even trend-setting in terms of percentage of buyout, and is light in terms of total 2-year dollars for a thirty-something catcher who seems to be sound.

 

The Twins need to be pretty sure Telis could do the job, before parting ways with Castro, and maybe the lack of a September callup (and 40-man add) is telling. Just pay Castro Flowers-type money, if they have concerns about getting caught short for 2020.

    • Vanimal46 likes this
Garver is still making pre-arb money in 2020. The Twins can certainly afford to pay the part time veteran catcher "starter" money for another year before Garver hits arbitration.

I would pitch a 2/$14 deal to Castro... Match his $8 million salary for 2020, $6 million with a buyout option in 2021.
    • Sconnie and DocBauer like this

 

I think Castro's future is like Suzuki's...

You mean he's going to be a post-season star for a WS-winning team!!? :)

 

If so, I DEFINITELY want the Twins to be the team that signs him.

    • IndianaTwin likes this
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pierre75275
Oct 24 2019 06:18 PM
I still love the thought of not signing Cron or Castro and instead signing Yasmani Grandel. Garver could play first as could Grandel as could Sano. Third base could ve covered by a combination of players currently on the roster. But....i suppose the money is better spent on pitching

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