At first glance, Welington Castillo and the Chicago White Sox seem like an awkward fit.
Castillo is a 30-year-old catcher and the Sox are a team one full year into a rebuild.
At this time one year ago, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn was on the verge of trading Chris Sale and Adam Eaton on consecutive days (Dec. 6-7), igniting the transition from old to young.
Hahn traded 11 veteran players since the 2016 winter meetings, but he signed Castillo to a two-year, $15 million contract on Friday. The deal includes an $8 million club option for 2020, with a $500,000 buyout.
Not only is Castillo a productive player with the bat and behind the plate, his experience is going to be invaluable to Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and the rest of the Sox’s young pitching staff.
“We view it as an upgrade for us, both in the short term and the long term,” Hahn said of signing Castillo. “He’s been one of the more productive catchers in baseball over the last couple of years and we think he’s going to have a lasting impact, on both our young pitchers and our young catchers as they continue to progress and eventually develop at the big-league level.”
Castillo batted .282 with 20 home runs and 53 RBI in 96 games with the Baltimore Orioles last season. He also led all major-league catchers by throwing out 44.4 percent (20 of 45) of attempted base stealers.
After declining a $7 million player option with the Orioles, Castillo became a free agent.
“Ricky (Renteria) had him on the North Side for a year and spoke very highly of him and was a big advocate in favor of making this move and adding not only what Welington brings between the lines from a production standpoint, but also the impact we feel he’ll have in a positive way in our clubhouse and on our young players,” Hahn said.
Now the White Sox’s manager, Renteria and Castillo were together in 2014 with the Cubs. A reunion was a huge factor in Castillo’s decision to join the Sox.
“It means a lot to be working with (Renteria) again,” Castillo said. “He’s a great person, great human being and great manager. He’s very positive and I’m happy to have the opportunity to play for him again. I’m going to do everything I know to do, everything (I can) to help this team win and help him win, too.”
As an added bonus, Castillo gives top catching prospect Zack Collins more time to develop. The White Sox’s first-round draft pick in 2016, Collins spent most of last season with high Class A Winston-Salem and played his final 12 games with AA Birmingham.
• The Sox made a formal presentation to Shohei Ohtani earlier this week, not that they expect to sign the two-way sensation from Japan.
“We did submit a presentation, as I suspect just about every other club in baseball did,” GM Rick Hahn said. “Despite the fact we realize the odds are long given the competition and other restrictions placed upon our ability to sign the player, we are committed to exploring every potential avenue to make this club better for the long term.”
• The White Sox non-tendered four players Friday night — injury-prone relief pitchers Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam, reliever Al Alburquerque and infielder Alen Hanson.
The 40-man roster is at 36.