It seems to be a predetermined conclusion that the Chicago Cubs will trade Welington Castillo this spring – probably ahead of the April 5 Opening Night tilt against the St. Louis Cardinals.
But what if the right deal never materializes? What if, after all the talks and discussion the media (ourselves included) have had about such a trade – Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer decide that the time isn’t right?
Do the Cubs break camp with three catchers on the 25-man roster? Is that really a feasible plan of action for a team looking to contend for a division crown in 2015?
In short, probably not.
In his five big league seasons, Castillo has appeared in 275 games. In just one of those games, he appeared in a position other than catcher – and that came back in 2012 when the regular Chicago backstop appeared at first base for the Cubs. Looking back at his minor league career, it’s a lot of the same.
He has appeared in 440 contests during his minor league career – and during those 440 games, he’s done something other than catch just three times. Three. So as new and foreign as the concept of a position shift is to Castillo, it may be something that – regardless of how poor of an idea it seems – may be in the cards.
The Cubs are paying Miguel Montero some $40 million over the next three years – so, needless to say, he’s not going to ride the pine all too much. He told reporters recently that he’s willing to catch as many games as needed to help the Cubs win in 2015 – so the two sides appear to be firmly on the same page.
David Ross, meanwhile, appears to be on the roster for two primary purposes: catch new ace Jon Lester and provide a veteran presence in the clubhouse and on the field – both extremely valuable causes on a young ball club.
So again, this leaves Castillo hung out to dry if the team cannot pull off a trade moving forward. The Cubs could keep him on the roster just for a solid bat off the bench, but it’s hard to imagine him being okay with such a role for an entire season.
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He recently talked with CSN Chicago about the rumors surrounding him this offseason – something that has quieted with the arrival of Spring Training in Florida and Arizona.
"“I want to be part of this, honestly,” Castillo said. “I want to be part of this team. This is the team that signed me when I was 17 years old. I want to win here."
He wants to be here. He plays a position that, all of the sudden, is extremely crowded in Chicago. He’s set to make just $2.1 million this season. All these things make me come to one of two conclusions: he’s either dealt (as we all expected) or he changes positions.
It’s something that we haven’t heard any mention of over the past six months, but the simple truth is this: if Welington Castillo is going to remain on the Cubs’ roster, he has to make himself valuable – and there’s no better way to do that than adding the ability to play a second position (likely first base) to his repertoire.