MESA, Ariz. — Maybe the Cubs are bluffing, knowing that they won’t be able to get top value for Welington Castillo unless they make the argument they could keep all three of their top catchers heading into the season. Or maybe, just maybe, they’ll actually do it.
Either way, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he’s considering, at least, carrying Castillo, David Ross and Miguel Montero to start the year. The team added the other two catchers this offseason, trading for the Diamondbacks’ Montero and signing the free agent Ross to a two-year deal.
Castillo is out of options, so he can’t start the season in the minors. Neither can the other two, and Castillo appears to be third in the pecking order, even after appearing in 213 games over the last two seasons. He hit 13 homers with 46 RBIs and a .237 average as the team’s everyday catcher last year.
“I think Welington Castillo has a had a great camp,” Maddon said. “He’s a very, very good catcher. So as you continue to move forward, how does it all fit? It’s a jigsaw puzzle, obviously.”
None of the team’s three top catchers can play another position, like first base.
Maddon, a former minor-league catcher, was sure to declare that “I’m not saying that Wely’s on the team,” and admitted it would be difficult to keep three catchers. The team’s three other bench players would have to be versatile, with at least one able to play both infield and outfield.
“But if you look at the catchers that we have Montero and Ross, there’s reasons to get them out of the game late in the game, whether it’s pinch-hitting or pinch-running,” Maddon said. “And just think about Wely’s tools: premier thrower, premier. One of the best out there right now. there’s different ways to think about that.
“And furthermore, there’s always the threat of injury.”
If the team gets through spring training without injury to its catchers, though, the Cubs will have a decision to make.