It may have been disturbing for some Orioles fans when the club allowed longtime catcher Matt Wieters to leave as a free agent after the 2016 season. However, the move turned out to be a positive one, at least for the Orioles.
The 2017 Orioles had a number of problems, but catching wasn't one of them.
Catcher Welington Castillo signed a one-year contract with the Orioles for $6 million with a $7 million player option for 2018. Despite two stints on the disabled list in 2017, Castillo hit a career-high 20 home runs in 96 games and his .282 average was the best of his eight years in the majors.
Wieters, the Orioles' regular catcher since 2009, had surprised the Orioles by accepting a $15.8 million qualifying offer in November 2015, but he wasn't offered another one after last season. With Wieters' backup, Caleb Joseph, coming off a season in which he didn't have a single RBI, the Orioles aggressively moved to sign Castillo, who had been non-tendered by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Wieters, 31, didn't sign with the Washington Nationals until spring training was underway. He had an excellent April for the Nationals, hitting .301 with a .400 on-base percentage, but Wieters ended the season hitting .225, the lowest of his career.
Wieters had an awful second half offensively, hitting .196, and his full-season WAR was -.6, compared to Castillo's 2.1. Wieters also threw out just 25 percent of runners attempting to steal, the worst mark since his rookie season.
The highlight of Wieters' season may have been his game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth off longtime teammate Brad Brach May 10.
Joseph rebounded nicely as a hitter in 2017, but the Castillo-Joseph tandem is likely to be short-lived. The 30-year-old Castillo is expected to test the market since he's arguably the best catcher in a thin free-agent market. In addition to his strong offensive numbers, Castillo threw out a major league-high 49 percent of runners who attempted to steal.
The Orioles are counting on rookie Chance Sisco, who batted .333 in 10 late-season games, to be their catcher of the future. In case they don't think Sisco is, at the least, ready to share the catching job with Joseph at the beginning of 2018, the Orioles could sign a veteran catcher for insurance.
They could re-sign Francisco Pena, who played in 19 games during the past two seasons, to a minor league contract. The team is high on Austin Wynns, who had a good season at Double-A Bowie.
Wynns hit .281 with 10 home runs and 46 RBIs and had a .377 on-base percentage for the Baysox. He threw out 38 percent of attempted base-stealers.
The Orioles will have to add Wynns to the 40-man roster or else he could be selected in December's Rule 5 draft.