It wasn't a surprise when catcher Welington Castillo decided not to accept his $7 million option for 2018, thus ending his tenure with the Orioles after one season.
Castillo had a good season in Baltimore, setting career highs with a .282 batting average and 20 home runs and leading the major leagues by throwing out 49 percent of baserunners trying to steal.
"Welington 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 base stealers," Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette wrote in a text message, "so it's no surprise he chose free agency. The Orioles appreciate Castillo's good work and wish him well in the future."
Castillo, who had two stints on the 10-day disabled list in 2017, played 96 games, and backup catcher Caleb Joseph appeared in 89.
Joseph and rookie Chance Sisco are the favorites to start 2018 behind the plate for the Orioles. Austin Wynns, who played well for Double-A Bowie last season, provides depth.
Sisco, a left-handed batter who will be 23 next February, has a .310 average and .390 on-base percentage in five minor league seasons, but his defense needs work.
Last year, he threw out 21 percent of runners trying to steal at Triple-A Norfolk, though he did improve during the second half of the season.
He played in 10 late-season games with the Orioles and didn't throw out any of the five runners who attempted to steal against him. He batted .333 with two homers and four RBIs.
Joseph, 31, rebounded nicely in 2017 after a nightmarish 2016 in which he failed to drive in a run in 132 at-bats and batted .174. Last season, he hit .256, a career high, with eight home runs and 28 RBIs. But Joseph threw out a career-low 18 percent of runners attempting to steal.
Castillo and Joseph made for a good tandem in replacing longtime Orioles catcher Matt Wieters.
"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 wrote.
This is an excellent opportunity for Joseph to again show his value. After years toiling in the Orioles' minor league system, he finally made the majors in May 2014, shortly before Wieters underwent Tommy John surgery.
Sharing the job with Nick Hundley, Joseph was a nice surprise as the Orioles won the American League East. He threw out 40 percent of runners trying to steal, leading the AL.
In 2015, with Wieters back on a restricted schedule, Joseph hit .234 with 11 homers and 49 RBIs, fourth-best on the club.
Joseph underwent testicular surgery in May 2016, and there were questions about his ability to rebound, but those questions were answered early in 2017 when he began driving in runs.
Had Castillo decided to return to the Orioles, there would have been an interesting dilemma. Would they have sent Sisco back to Norfolk for another season, or could they have gone with three catchers?
Sisco will now have a genuine opportunity in the big leagues, and it gives Joseph another chance to show that he's a productive major league catcher.
The Orioles may sign another veteran catcher for depth because Francisco Pena, who filled in for Castillo when he was on the DL, has filed for minor-league free agency.
NOTE: Orioles left fielder Trey Mancini is one of the three finalists for the AL Rookie of the Year award. The other finalists are New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge and Boston Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi. The results will be announced Nov. 13.