GLENDALE, Ariz. — White Sox catcher Welington Castillo played with Manny Machado with the Orioles in 2017.
“Great guy, great teammate,’’ Castillo said Thursday at the Sox spring-training complex. “That’s the guy you want to have on your side. Great player, everybody knows that. He likes to win, loves to compete.’’
Machado is one of two big fish, along with Bryce Harper, in the free-agent market who remain unsigned. The Sox are one of the teams in pursuit of the infielder. Castillo said that he and Machado were tight when they were teammates, and last season, Castillo used FaceTime and texts to urge Machado to join the White Sox when he became a free agent.
But Castillo hasn’t reached out lately.
“Not yet. I know he’s going through a tough situation, so I don’t want to text him or anything like that,’’ Castillo said. “I want him to stay focused on their [decision].’’
Which he hopes is one in the Sox’ favor.
“Who doesn’t want to have him?” Castillo said.
The Phillies, Padres and perhaps the Yankees, to name three who are also engaged to varying degrees. The Padres reportedly met with Machado and his wife last week in Florida.
Castillo has no questions about Machado’s attitude, which was called into question during the postseason with his ‘I’m not Johnny Hustle’ comments that may have been misconstrued. In any event, they made potential suitors step back to evaluate the meaning of it all.
“He has a great attitude,’’ Castillo insisted.
New right-hander Ivan Nova, acquired in an offseason trade, would welcome Machado, too.
“It would mean a lot,’’ Nova said. “If we sign him, it would be a great, great addition. He would put us in another position.”
A Sox lineup with Jose Abreu, Eloy Jimenez and Machado in the middle would have a much more dangerous look. He wouldn’t give the Sox the look of instant contender, but they’d be closer.
“You’ve got to see,’’ said Nova, 32, a nine-year veteran with the Yankees and Pirates. “Because we’ve got a lot of young guys, but they can contribute. We’ve got a lot of guys with power, a couple of guys with 20-plus homers. That’s a lot of runs. And if you add another 30-plus, it would put us in another position.”
Castillo hit 20 homers for the Orioles in 2017. The Sox signed him to a two-year deal with a club option for a third before last season. His first year was limited to 49 games due to an 80-game suspension for PEDs.
Castillo called it the most difficult year of his life and is happy to have it behind him. He was relieved to be, for the most part, welcomed back by teammates when he returned last season.
“They know what kind of person I am. I am blessed to be on this team with these kind of players,’’ he said.
The goal in 2019?
“Stay healthy,’’ Castillo said. “I’m going to stay healthy and be there for them. I’m going to be me. I’m going to be the kind of person and player that I am. I’m going to put everything I got on myself to help this team win.’’
At 31, Castillo said he feels invigorated being surrounded by young talent.
“I see a lot of talent, a lot of talent,’’ he said. “And every year the goal is more experience for those young guys we have here. We have something special going on.
“Oh, you can’t imagine [how excited I am]. I’m really happy to be here and work and try to help this pitching staff. I know what it can do and what they are going to do. We got something special here.’’
And adding a special piece like Machado to the mix wouldn’t hurt.