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REPORT: Twins To Sign Jason Castro

The Minnesota Twins new front office did not waste much time addressing issues this offseason, first cutting ties with veteran third baseman Trevor Plouffe, now Fox Sport's Ken Rosenthal says the team has a deal in place with free agent catcher Jason Castro.
Image courtesy of Kim Klement // USA Today
Yahoo Sport's Jeff Passan reports that the two sides have agreed upon a three-year, $24.5 million contract.

As Nick Nelson detailed in the Offseason Handbook, Castro hasn't shown much with his bat over the last three seasons, posting a combined .215/.291/.369 line over that time. It would seem in the Twins' best interested to use him in a platoon role with the right-handed swinging John Ryan Murphy. Over the last two seasons Castro hit a passable .225/.315/.417 against right-handed pitching. In that sense, the $8.2 million per year is a hefty fee for a platoon candidate but as the left-handed hitting one, Castro would play the lion's share of the games.

Castro's biggest upside has been his defense. Specifically his ability to steal strikes from outside of the zone, particularly against right-handed hitters.



Attached Image: output_7BIM7U.gif



This could be an immediate impact for pitchers. Consider Kyle Gibson. Gibson does not possess swing-and-miss stuff but has plenty of movement and stays around the zone. With his sinker and slider combo, Gibson could be one big benefactor to Castro's outer-half framing skills.

Castro's receiving skill set goes beyond gaining a strike call from off the plate. It is ensuring that pitches that cut through the zone are also acknowledged as such. Consider this: over the last three season with Kurt Suzuki as the primary catcher, the Twins have had 81.3% of pitches that were in the strike zone and the batter watched it go by, called a strike -- the lowest in baseball. The Twins pitching staff, who did not need to be further behind the eight ball, was victimized to some degree by their catchers' performance. We cannot rule out some influence on inconsistent location or umpire biases, to be sure. However by comparison the Astros pitching staff, backstopped by Castro, had baseball's second best rate at 85.3%. While it may seem like a small percentage, that can make a significant difference in any given at bat.

"Framing" might be the word that makes people cringe, as if the act is dishonest and swindling a human who is paid to make accurate calls. The reality is framing is receiving the ball in the right way. It is positioning your body to give the umpire a good look at a pitch. It is making a pitch that is one ball length off the plate look more like it clipped a part of the zone.

What exactly does Castro's framing skills look like? Here he is stealing a called third strike, coaxing a pitch that passed by the zone back into it.

Posted Image


The previous front office regime did not put much, if any, emphasis on the value of catcher framing. The recent signings of Kurt Suzuki and Ryan Doumit did little to assist the pitching staff. Castro, on the other hand, has gone from a mediocre receiver to one of the game's highest valued, saving 32.2 framing runs above average (7th out of 103 qualified catchers) for the Astros over the last three seasons compared to Suzuki's -32.0 framing runs (100 out of 103 catchers). In theory, that is a six-game swing or could have been a two-game improvement in each season had the Twins employed Castro over Suzuki.

When you break the numbers down further, we find that Castro is extremely adept at getting strikes called in hitter's counts. According to ESPN/Tru Media's framing stats, Castro was second in baseball among all catchers with a 15.3 framing runs above average mark when the hitter's were ahead. That means Castro was able to help get his pitcher from dangerous territory into more manageable areas.

The move is not sexy from an offseason standpoint, however, this signing could give the Twins' pitching staff a much needed shot in the arm.

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223 Comments

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operation mindcrime
Nov 22 2016 05:13 PM
I like it! Go Twins!!! :) \m/
    • TheLeviathan and d-mac like this
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bluechipper
Nov 22 2016 05:15 PM
That's a good deal in terms of money owed. I'd like to have Castro be a better hitter, but his catching skills should make up for the weak bat.
    • TheLeviathan, HitInAPinch and Vanimal46 like this
Yes, no more pitch framing diaries! Lol
    • HitInAPinch likes this
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Lee-The-Twins-Fan
Nov 22 2016 05:28 PM

Will he be able to work with Mitch Garver?

Can't hit a lick (.222, .211, .210 last three years), but he does seem to take walks and shows a little pop in the bat. 

 

But, goes to show teams will pay for defense, and in theory, Castro should get lots of borderline balls called strikes which should help the pitchers. 

    • bluechipper likes this

Hmmmm... Castro's a poor batter with a big strikeout problem who gets on base at a decent clip. I'll have to look up how he does defensively, but it seems most people think he's above average.

 

I'm glad they finally are focusing on defense behind the plate, but I have my concerns about giving a 30 year old catcher who's hitting .215 in his last three seasons a 3 year deal where he gets about $8M a year. So I'm feeling "meh" about this signing.

    • jud6312 likes this
Hope he is a defensive wizard behind the plate! Anything to help out a young pitching staff gets a thumbs up.
    • Jerr and HitInAPinch like this

 

Hmmmm... Castro's a poor batter with a big strikeout problem who gets on base at a decent clip. I'll have to look up how he does defensively, but it seems most people think he's above average.

 

I'm glad they finally are focusing on defense behind the plate, but I have my concerns about giving a 30 year old catcher who's hitting .215 in his last three seasons a 3 year deal where he gets about $8M a year. So I'm feeling "meh" about this signing.

 

I don't think his bat is as bad as people are making it out to be. Yeah, he hits for a low average, but comes with a decent amount of pop and he walks at a good rate. He can't hit lefties but is an above average hitter vs RHP on his career (247/328/424, 108 wRC+). Not something I am worrying about at this point. His defense and contributions with our young pitching staff, and the upgrade he represents over Murphy/Garver/Centeno etc. are more than enough to make up for any warts he has with his bat.

 

For added reference. Catchers as a whole hit 242/310/391, 87 wRC+ in the MLB last year. 230/297/387 in the AL. He'll be fine.

    • USAFChief, Vanimal46 and d-mac like this
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TheLeviathan
Nov 22 2016 05:56 PM

Excellent, excellent move.  So happy to see this.

    • USAFChief, BK432, Jerr and 5 others like this

For a team that is clearly rebuilding is this smart to sign a catcher for this type of money over 3 years?Wouldn't you think Mitch Garver should be ready to take over in 2018 at least if not sooner?

    • laloesch likes this
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Brandon Warne
Nov 22 2016 06:07 PM

If anyone cares -- and it's OK that you probably don't -- I wrote my view up here:

 

https://t.co/VFntSR6DRc

    • BK432, Craig Arko, Cory Engelhardt and 1 other like this
Stop
Overpaying
For
Mediocre
Players
    • darin617, messed up, h2oface and 2 others like this
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Comrade Bork
Nov 22 2016 06:14 PM
38.7 runs above average?? What stat is that? What's it factor in?

3.87 WAR? ...

 

Stop
Overpaying
For
Mediocre
Players

You want them to fix the pitching, but don't want them to fix the catching?  Look pass the batting average, Dave. 

    • USAFChief, BigSkyTwinsFan, Oldgoat_MN and 10 others like this

Well, hopefully he can help nibblers like Gibson

    • bluechipper and spinowner like this

You want them to fix the pitching, but don't want them to fix the catching? Look pass the batting average, Dave.

They need to fix the catching no doubt, but they need to be aiming much higher than Jason Castro.

Just like when it comes to pitching they need to acquire good arms instead of mediocre arms like Nolasco and Hughes.
    • messed up likes this
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clutterheart
Nov 22 2016 06:22 PM
They saw Garvers's D in the AFL and couldn't sign a catcher fast enough.

 

Stop
Overpaying
For
Mediocre
Players

 

 

They need to fix the catching no doubt, but they need to be aiming much higher than Jason Castro.

Just like when it comes to pitching they need to acquire good arms instead of mediocre arms like Nolasco and Hughes.

 

Who do you think they should have acquired?

 

    • Oldgoat_MN, SwainZag, PseudoSABR and 5 others like this

Yuch - nothing inspiring here.  When do Catchers regress?  I think we have another Suzuki in years two and three.  What is the trade off between framing and hitting?  I hope the rest of you are really excited because this does nothing for me.

    • ken and jud6312 like this

 

They need to fix the catching no doubt, but they need to be aiming much higher than Jason Castro.

Just like when it comes to pitching they need to acquire good arms instead of mediocre arms like Nolasco and Hughes.

I'm not sure it's fair or correct to compare Castro to Hughes and Nolasco.  Change in front-office leadership, and the initial Hughes contract was a good one. 

    • TheLeviathan and HitInAPinch like this

Looking closer to the numbers, Castro against RHPs had a .757 OPS last season.The last time a Twins' catcher (who was not named Mauer) hit that well was in 2003.His career OPS against RHPs is .753 (and against LHPs .536)

 

Poster boy of platooning and playing Garver or Murphy against LHPs.

 

He can hit ok, just not against LHPs

 

I think that it is a good move that would help the Twins young pitchers

    • USAFChief, jorgenswest, wavedog and 7 others like this
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TheLeviathan
Nov 22 2016 06:40 PM

 

They need to fix the catching no doubt, but they need to be aiming much higher than Jason Castro.

Just like when it comes to pitching they need to acquire good arms instead of mediocre arms like Nolasco and Hughes.

 

Um.....there is no "much higher".

 

8.5 million for a very good defensive catcher with decent offense is a damn good signing IMO.

 

Unless Buster Posey is available, what the hell do you want?

    • sorney, BigSkyTwinsFan, nicksaviking and 8 others like this

 

Um.....there is no "much higher".

 

8.5 million for a very good defensive catcher with decent offense is a damn good signing IMO.

 

Unless Buster Posey is available, what the hell do you want?

It is a good signing if you plan on contending soon. Does anyone see this team contending in 3 years? I am a dire hard fan but I don't see this turning around that soon.

 

Um.....there is no "much higher".

 

8.5 million for a very good defensive catcher with decent offense is a damn good signing IMO.

 

Unless Buster Posey is available, what the hell do you want?

Last 3 years: 1.6 EAR, 1.5 WAR, 1.1 WAR.

Terrible K Rate, terrible CS% trending downwards.

I wouldn't mind if this was a one year signing, but 3 years? Ugh, give those at bats to someone with an upside at least. Castro is not that.

    • messed up likes this
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bluechipper
Nov 22 2016 06:50 PM

 

Yuch - nothing inspiring here.  When do Catchers regress?  I think we have another Suzuki in years two and three.  What is the trade off between framing and hitting?  I hope the rest of you are really excited because this does nothing for me.

He's not a very good hitter, but he's one of the best pitch framers in the game. Going from the worst in Suzuki to one of the best should do something for you. Having good offense from the position would be nice, but the pitching is the problem, and this hopefully will help with that.


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