Pirates DFA Castillo, Making Room for Austin Hedges

12-21-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

Before we get into this, don’t mistake my lack of emotion for the move as hate for the player or the guy. I simply see moves like this differently than many of you seem to.

I don’t look at an individual DFA and then immediately rush to the 40-man and start picking players I think are worse than him who could have gone first, I look at a series of things about the construction of the 40-man that make this player in particular expendable.

Further, I usually have a top 5-ish list in my head at all times of who could be in trouble and sometimes a move to bring in someone in a specific area can change it.

So, that being said, and knowing I’ll circle back to it, let’s move on. Diego Castillo was DFAd to make room for Austin Hedges.

We knew the Pirates were going to have to sign a catcher, and we know they’ll have to DFA someone else whenever they finally decide to make the Jarlin Garcia signing official. So, there’s another coming.

If you look at Hedges and your head goes to “is he better than Diego?” you aren’t looking at this stuff in a way that makes sense to me.

The real questions you have to ask and form your own top 5-ish list are as follows, and you certainly don’t have to land on the same answers as me, I’m just going to lay out how I walk through these things.

Question 1: What positions are bloated? Meaning, when you look at the 40-man roster where do you see them having too much depth? For instance, 2 is the bare minimum for number of catchers a team has to have on their 40-man, right now the Pirates have 2 and they’ll add a third (even if it’s Heineman) before Spring is out. Middle infield has a ton, and even a couple who aren’t on it but certainly would be if Rule 5 Eligible.

Question 2: Which Players Don’t Have a True Position? Diego is a great example here. He can play a bunch of places, but you won’t find a spot where he’s your first choice, in fact I bet you wouldn’t find one where he’s your second. Doesn’t mean he is worthless, just means he’s automatically a bench guy on this roster at best.

Question 3: Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze? What I mean here is if this player reaches their perceived ceiling, does it put them in the mix? In other words, even if they right this second are better than a younger player, can you reasonably expect them to hold off the younger player even if everything goes right?

Then there are simple facts you have no choice but to take into account.

Fact 1: Each position has a minimum number you have to carry. Not by MLB rule, but by simple ability to get through a season.

Fact 2: There is nothing bigger in this process than Options. Don’t have options and decisions get forced.

Fact 3: This is team dependent, but a player making above MLB minimum on a team like this probably gets a weighted decision making process.

Fact 4: Teams don’t always want to lose someone they DFA, all of the above factors simply force their hand. The better your system, the more often this comes up.

Fact 5: Pitching is king. Fringe pitchers are simply worth more than fringe position players.

All of that stuff comes before I even touch player evaluation.

Now that Diego has been DFAd, my 5-ish list gets updated. I’ll give you my list now and explain each one backed by the criteria I just listed.

  1. Bryse Wilson – Bryse has no options left, he’s 25 so he’s younger than most people who have 2 full seasons of MLB service time. He’s very unlikely to make the rotation, his stuff doesn’t really play in the pen. On the 40-man the Pirates have 21 dedicated to pitchers, and that’s without Jarlin Garcia.
  2. Ryan Vilade – The addition of Connor Joe made the likelihood that Vilade gets a legitimate shot at winning a roster spot pretty low. If you saw my suggested active roster on opening day, Joe himself didn’t even make it. 9 outfielders is a lot to carry on a 40-man, and that’s why Ryan won’t be the last on my list.
  3. Tucupita Marcano – Marcano is still super young, and we all know Cherington really wanted him, but you can’t argue where he falls on the list of 9 outfielders. In fact, just take him to the list of left handed hitting outfielders and he’s at least 4th. He may very well wind up being a very good MLB player, but that’s a lot to jump over.
  4. Cal Mitchell – He isn’t a top notch defender but he hasn’t gotten a ton of opportunity yet to prove what he can do with the stick. I could go either way on him as I almost always could by the time I get down to 4 or 5 on my lists.
  5. Yohan Ramirez – He’s got one option left and finds himself deep on the depth chart. The Pirates may want to get innings out of him before cutting ties. They’ve worked hard to add a stable of pitchers with the ability to go up and down but they still have a few zero option guys slated to be in the majors that they’ll likely want to run through first.

Now onto Diego himself.

He was worth taking a shot on. A short stop, second baseman and right fielder, but not top notch at any of them. The Pirates gave him 262 ABs and he did hit 11 homeruns, but everything added up to a -0.9 WAR. His direct competition is the right handed sticks in the outfield like Connor Joe, Miguel Andujar and Ryan Vilade. Defensively, he’s not beating any of those players. Offensively, the first two are already better bets. Short stop, no chance. Second base, he’d have to beat out Castro, Marcano, Bae minimally, and I don’t see it.

Point is, he got squeezed out. I can make an argument he’s a better player than anyone else on my new list, but all those arguments are destroyed by the competition aspect of where he plays. And folks, this isn’t a DH.

DFAing players that still have upside is indicative of a healthy system. There’s a reason so many guys the Rays DFA get picked up quickly. Full transparency here, Diego was number 4 on my list, so it’s not like I thought he was the obvious choice, or I feel the need to defend the organization here. I’m simply saying once you’ve made my list, I’m done worrying about it.

Be sad the player you grew to like has been cut, but look at the whole picture and it makes total sense.

In my eyes, it’s very likely he gets picked up by someone else, despite what you read almost everyday there are teams much worse off than the Pirates where Castillo could get a real shot.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

7 thoughts on “Pirates DFA Castillo, Making Room for Austin Hedges

  1. I agree with your list with 2 exceptions — Mitchell & Marcano—Underwood Jr would been better choice to DFA since (I believe) that he has no options remaining …. doesn’t that go against your argument? Plus, Underwood Jr can steal defeat from the jaws of victory the other option Id have had the is DeJong–He could easily clear waivers since he has before & again ( i think) no options

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Neither of them will clear. And neither are as bad as most fans believe. Especially De Jong who statistically was their best reliever in 2022. If they were going to DFA Underwood, they would have just non tendered him


      1. I just don’t see what they see in Underwood -Dejong I could be convinced to keep if stays in pen PLEASE don’t start him though


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