By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) The Cubs have made it known that Welington Castillo, their full-time catcher for the past two seasons, is available in the right trade. He's been made expendable with Chicago's trade for Miguel Montero and its soon-to-be-announced signing of David Ross.
The 27-year-old Castillo hasn't done anything obvious to lose his job, but a potential move is based on the organization's unwillingness to wait for some of his skills to improve. The criticism of Castillo has been based on his signal-calling and pitch framing, which some say is subpar. The Cubs' coaching staff has worked extremely hard at helping the affable-but-raw Castillo learn the nuances of the position, but time appears to be running short.
Castillo improved in 2014 by throwing out 32 percent of would-be base stealers, which was good for fifth best in the National League. His offensive numbers were a mixed bag of results. He dropped 37 points in batting average from 2013 (.274 to .237), and his on-base percentage plummeted to .298 in 2014. Castillo increased his home runs from eight to 13, and his RBI numbers rose from 32 to 48 in 2014.
Castillo's work ethic is one factor working in his favor -- and that of the Cubs in a potential trade. I can attest that his work ethic wasn't surpassed by many. On several occasions, I can remember waiting for Castillo for an hour after he caught a game. He wasn't dodging any media members; he had hit the weight room to lift in order to keep up with the strength demands that the position requires. He'd even do this sometimes after extra-inning games.
The Cubs are in need of outfield help, and a number of clubs could be in the market to swap for a 27-year-old catcher with three more years of contract control in front of him. The Padres have excess outfielders after trading for Matt Kemp and Justin Upton. Seth Smith is a left-handed hitter who fits the bill as a No. 2 hitter and left fielder that the Cubs could need. His lifetime .347 on-base percentage is exactly what the Cubs need near the top of their batting order. Smith is under reasonable contract control as well, for two more years at $13 million total with a 2017 option.
The Padres recently picked up catcher Derek Norris in a deal with Oakland, but that didn't stop them from bidding on Ross before he chose the Cubs last Friday. Texas,Boston and Washington could also get involved in a deal involving Castillo.
There remains no rush to move Castillo, but that said, carrying a third catcher seems like a waste of resources. The Cubs will pay starter Montero $13 million and backup Ross $2.5 million in 2015. Based on his comparative stats, Castillo will probably ask for $2 million in 2015. This will be his first arbitration-eligible season.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.
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