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The Angels and Nationals each sign a Castro

The Angels fill in a critical need at catcher, while the Nationals add to their infield depth.

Cleveland Indians v Minnesota Twins Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

Jason Castro

Castro recently signed a one-year, $6.85 million deal with the Angels, filling an important hole for a franchise that is doing well this winter to try and not waste yet another year of Mike Trout. He is no Yasmani Grandal, but he is a good overall catcher that should definitely improve the team.

Even given the significant time Castro missed due to injury, which included almost all of 2018, he was well worth the three-year, $24.5 million deal the Twins gave him in November 2016. He strikes out a lot, but he hits well for a catcher, and his 11.7 percent walk rate ranks sixth among qualified catchers since 2016. Also, he is no slouch behind the plate, either. After a few years of rough defense when he was first starting out with the Astros, the team succeeded improving both his defensive and framing skills. He is not going to be winning any Gold Gloves, and his framing skills are merely good, not elite, but he should provide significant value other than with his bat.

I doubt many people expected the Twins to bring back Castro after the monster season Mitch Garver had. Among catchers with at least 300 PA, he was the best offensively, hitting .273/.365/.630 with 31 HR in only 359 PA, good for a 155 wRC+. His 3.9 fWAR ranked third in the majors among catchers. He is clearly a major regression candidate who was helped by the juiced ball, but even if hits no better than the 108 wRC+ Steamer projects him for 2020, he would be a solid backstop who could have a higher ceiling than Castro.

All that being said, if it all it cost was less than $7 million, I would like to have seen the Twins bring Castro back. Garver will make less than $600,000 in 2020, and keeping Castro would give the Twins the best catching tandem in baseball in what is increasingly becoming a more competitive division that now has Yasmani Grandal on the White Sox. Backup catchers tend to be replacement level, which Castro is definitely not. Keeping him around could have added a win to a team that might really need it in 2020.

The Angels, however, need Castro far more than the Twins do. Their catchers combined for -0.6 fWAR in 2019, which ranked fourth to last in baseball. Without Castro, it did not look like it was going to get any better in 2020, as it looked like Max Stassi was going to be the starting catcher. I am sure his atrocious .136/.211/.167 line in 2019 was an aberration, especially since he was roughly a league average hitter in 281 PA over the two seasons prior, but the Angels need all the help they can get in trying to return to the postseason. This new catching tandem has the potential to add 3-4 wins over what the Angels had to deal with last season.

Starlin Castro

I can’t believe this Castro isn’t even 30 years old (he will be before the season starts). It feels like he has been around forever, and if one were to ask a casual fan to guess his age, that person would guess 35 or older. It just feels that way because he debuted in 2010 at only 20 years old.

Castro just signed with the Nationals for a cheap two-year, $12 million deal. He will provided some extra depth infield depth for the Nationals along with Howie Kendrick, Asdrúbal Cabrera, and prospect Carter Kieboom whenever he gets the call up.

The 2019 season was weird one for Castro, but the two seasons before that were pretty good. He hit .288/.333/.423 over that span and combined for 5.3 WAR. He even started learning how to take a walk last year in his first season with the Marlins, though unfortunately he went back to his old ways in 2019.

As for that strange 2019 season, it was a tale of two Castros. He was terrible in the first half of the season, hitting only .245/.272/.336, and then flipped a switch in the second half of the season to hit .302/.334/.558, which is basically vintage Castro but with power, though the juiced balls likely factor into that. His .365 wOBA was over 100 points better than it was in the first half! The funny thing is that Castro finished the season with a 91 wRC+, which is not much lower than the 95 wRC+ that Steamer projects for him in 2020.

Castro’s second base defense seems to have improved, as well. There are lots of deserved criticisms that can be lobbed at the Marlins, but they are quite adept at improving players’ infield defense. Dee Gordon is a great example of this. He specifically credited the Marlins for his improved defense. I did not watch Castro in the field while he was in Miami — believe it or not, I chose to avoid watching the Marlins — but the defensive metrics have significantly improved. He appears to be a fringe-average to average defender at second base, and he has learned to play third. I suppose he can still fill in at shortstop, but I would only do so on an emergency basis. He should be a solid bench player for the Nats.

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Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.