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Indians free agent target: Welington Castillo, C

One team’s non-tender is another team’s starting catcher?

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Arizona Diamondbacks Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Despite being one trade exemption away from acquiring a catcher at the July trade deadline, the Cleveland Indians have not been publicly tied to many catchers this offseason — 36-year-old Erik Kratz notwithstanding. It’s kind of a quiet need of theirs, but it’s also a position that could easily be fixed internally if Yan Gomes returns to his 2014 form, or if Roberto Perez can carry even an average bat in 2017. So going all-in on a catcher could result in wasted resources.

Yesterday’s deadline to either extending an offer to arbitration-eligible players or let them walk opened the doors to a lot of interesting new targets as the Winter Meetings wait on the horizon, including one in particular that caught my eye: Welington Castillo.

Castillo, who will turn 30 just days after Opening Day next season, was a surprise non-tender by the Arizona Diamondbacks Monday night. Last season the catcher slashed .264/.322/.423 with 14 home runs in 457 plate appearances, all while being forced to endure those awful Diamondbacks jerseys. His walk rate took a nice jump to 7.2 percent, up from the 6.6 percent he took free bases in 2015, although his BABIP was a bit higher-than-average at .337.

MLB Trade Rumors estimated that Castillo would have made $5.9 million in salary arbitration. Considering teams like the Tampa Bay Rays are already rumored to be interested, he could be the center of a bidding war in this weak free agent market.

When the Indians were pursuing Jonathan Lucroy, they were going for a huge upgrade over any catcher that was on their roster. Castillo would not be that, obviously, but if there is doubt about Yan Gomes’ ability to rebound, or doubt about Roberto Perez’s bat ever coming around, maybe they don’t need a massive upgrade. Just anything better than the black hole they had in 2016.