Mariners acquire catcher Castillo from Cubs

CHICAGO, IL - May 14: Welington Castillo #5 of the Chicago Cubs at bat against the New York Mets during the second inning on May 14, 2015 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)

CHICAGO, IL – May 14: Welington Castillo #5 of the Chicago Cubs at bat against the New York Mets during the second inning on May 14, 2015 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)

Looking to add depth at the catching position, the Mariners acquired six-year Major League veteran Welington Castillo from the Cubs on Tuesday in exchange for right-handed reliever Yoervis Medina.

Castillo is expected to join the Mariners on Wednesday in Baltimore and a corresponding roster move will be made at that time to clear a spot for him. He’ll presumably fill the role of backup catcher to Mike Zunino, a job currently held by Jesus Sucre.

“It’s very challenging in this day and age to have catching depth,” said Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik. “To add a catcher that has a reasonable amount of Major League experience is important to the entire organization.”

Castillo, 28, has hit .163 in 24 games with two home runs, two doubles and five RBIs for the Cubs this season. He was the Cubs starting catcher in 2013-14, batting .274 in 2013. But his offense dropped last year when he hit .237 and he was working as the team’s third catcher this year behind Miguel Montero and David Ross.

Medina, 26, was a key member of the Mariners bullpen the past two years, but was sent to Triple-A Tacoma two weeks ago. Seattle has some strength in its right-handed power arms, but Zduriencik said it was still a tough decision.

“I don’t think anybody is comfortable with having enough pitching,” Zduriencik said. “But catching at the Major League level is a very challenging position. It’s difficult to get through the season with one or two catchers. We’ve been fortunate to have a healthy Mike Zunino, but a couple years ago he was out six weeks with a broken hamate. It’s a position on the field where if you can add depth, it’s in your best interest to do it.”

The Mariners currently have John Hicks, who has no Major League experience, and veteran John Baker sharing backstop duties at Tacoma. Hicks is hitting .226 with a .674 OPS in 24 games, while Baker has batted .161 with a .378 OPS in 17 appearances.

The Mariners haven’t got much offense out of the position at the Major League level either. Zunino is a well-regarded 24-year-old and excellent defender, but he’s batting just .179 with a .600 OPS in 35 games. Sucre has hit .067 (1-for-15) with a .133 OPS in six games.

Castillo carries a career .252 average with 29 home runs and 110 RBIs. From 2013-14, he hit .255 with 42 doubles, 21 home runs, 78 RBIs and a .716 OPS in 223 games. The Dominican product has thrown out 58 of 220 attempted base stealers in his career (26.4 percent).

“He has the ability to hit and he’s got power,” Zduriencik said. “He has a very good throwing arm and is a good [pitch] blocker. He has a nice skillset. There are those that debate whether he could have been a starting catcher at this level. I think we’re getting someone with ability and we’ll see how he fits in with our club.”

Medina posted a 2.82 ERA in 141 appearances out of the Mariners bullpen the last three seasons. This year, he was 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in 12 innings over 12 outings with Seattle and had a 1.59 ERA in 5 2/3 innings over four appearances with Tacoma. He’ll be assigned to Triple-A Iowa by the Cubs.

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