New Minnesota Twins Chief Baseball Operator Derek Falvey has made his first free-agent signing since taking over the reigns in Minnesota.
The Twins signed former Houston Astros catcher Jason Castro to a three-year, $24.5 million contract on Tuesday. Though Castro is regarded as one of Major League Baseball’s best catchers, he’s certainly a massive upgrade for a team that had the worst record in the majors in 2016 and had bottom-of-the-league catching performances to go along with it.
For the past three seasons, Kurt Suzuki had done most of the catching for Minnesota — and it wasn’t pretty. In 2016, Suzuki had a .258/.301/.403 slash line, which isn’t necessarily bad for a catcher, but not very good either.
But where Suzuki’s really struggled is on the defensive end with framing pitches, a talent that is becoming more and more coveted around the league (at least until we have automated strike zones!). Just look at how Castro and Suzuki compare when it comes to framing pitches:
Pitch framing from 2014-2016:
Jason Castro: +39.5 runs
Kurt Suzuki: -35.4 runs
Castro helped pitchers a lot. Suzuki hurt pitchers a lot.
— Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) November 10, 2016
To go along with these numbers, Castro threw out five percent more runners on average than Suzuki.
When it comes to offense, Castro is nothing fancy himself, with a .210/.307/.377 slash line in 2016. So, offensively Suzuki and Castro are pretty even on paper, but the defensive improvement could be pretty substantial with Castro.
When Suzuki was released, it seemed inevitable. The only other catcher with the Twins who has MLB experience is John Ryan Murphy, a player Minnesota traded for this past off-season. While the Twins thought Murphy could become Suzuki’s full-time replacement, his .146 average said otherwise.
It also seemed obvious that Houston would be moving on from Castro when the Astros acquired Brian McCann from the New York Yankees.
This isn’t a perfect signing, but it will do the trick for Minnesota for now. The Twins’ pitching staff will struggle enough in 2017. Any pitch framing improvement will help.