After strong '17 with O's, Castillo hits market

After strong '17 with O's, Castillo hits market

BALTIMORE -- Orioles catcher Welington Castillo has declined his $7 million player option for 2018 and will re-enter the free agent market this offseason. The news, which came on Monday afternoon in advance of baseball's 5 p.m. ET deadline for free agency to begin, was long anticipated in Baltimore. Castillo, who made $6 million last year, had a career season at the plate in 2017 that will make him one of the top available catchers for '18.

"Castillo did a nice job for the Orioles in 2017 and had one of his best offensive years and threw out almost half of the basestealers, so it's no surprise he chose free agency," executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said. "The Orioles appreciate Castillo's good work and wish him well in the future."

Castillo hit .282/.323/.490 with a career-high 20 homers in 96 games, often giving the O's the big hit when needed. The 30-year-old -- who signed a deal that maxed out at two years and $13 million -- threw out 49 percent of attempted basestealers last season.

Castillo joins shortstop J.J. Hardy and lefty Wade Miley -- who had their club options declined last week -- as free-agent departures.

Without Castillo, the O's will turn the catching duties over to top prospect Chance Sisco -- who impressed in a short stint in September -- and backup catcher Caleb Joseph. Baltimore also has prospect Austin Wynns, who has made a favorable impression as well.

"Castillo helped the club move on from Matt Wieters and bridge the gap to see that Caleb Joseph was healthy and allow more time for the club to develop Sisco and Wynns," Duquette said.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for since 2010. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.