The Chicago Cubs traded catcher Welington Castillo to the Seattle Mariners for right-handed reliever Yoervis Medina, the teams announced Tuesday. Subsequently, Medina was optioned to the Cubs' Triple-A affiliate at Iowa.
The 28-year-old catcher, who was the Cubs' starting catcher the last two seasons, will provide the Mariners an experienced veteran with a strong arm and better bat than their current backup so starting catcher Mike Zunino can get some days off, at least for now.
The current backup, Jesus Sucre, is expected to be optioned to team's Triple-A affiliate at Tacoma to make room for Castillo. The 27-year-old backstop, with all of 102 major league at bats over the last three seasons, was off to such a nightmarish start that he's been getting pulled for pinch hitters and forcing Zunino to play on his scheduled rest days.
Castillo saw limited playing time this season after the Cubs picked up Miguel Montero and David Ross over the winter. In 42 plate appearances over eight games, he's labored to a .163/.234/.349, hitting two home runs and driving in five runs.
Last year in 417 plate appearances, he recorded a .237/.296/.389 slash line, launched 13 home runs and drove in 46 runs. He also had 102 strikeouts. It was a down year for him and what prompted the Cubs to go out and get new talent in the offseason. But over six seasons and 1,116 plate appearances with the Cubs, he's carried a .252/.320/.398 slashline and he's still two years on the right side of 30. And that should at least give some pause to Zunino, whose current .178 average and a .199/.261/.379 slash over the last three seasons are nothing to write home about in spite of his five homers and 11 runs batted in.
In the 24-year-old Medina, the Cubs are getting a welcome reinforcement to shore up their well-worked NL 10th-ranked 4.32 ERA bullpen, which has been frayed by the loss of relievers Justin Grimm and Neal Ramirez. A shaky start to the season likely made Medina expendable, but he appears to have worked it out and regained his pedigree since being sent down to Triple-A Tacoma at the beginning of the month.
In 12 appearances spanning 12 innings with Seattle to start the season, he allowed four earned runs and put up a 3.00 ERA, 129 ERA+, 4.49 FIP and 1.500 WHIP, walking seven and striking out nine. But since he hit Tacoma he's thrown five and two thirds innings over four appearances, faced 18 batters and recorded a 1.59 ERA, allowing just one hit and run to score on a home run. He's walked one batter and struck out four.
Last season with the Mariners, Medina was one of the gemstones in baseball's best bullpen, pitching 57 innings over 66 appearances and putting up a 2.68 ERA, 136 ERA+ and 3.45 FIP. Over his three-year MLB career, all with the Mariners, he's thrown a total of 137 innings in 141 appearances at a solid 2.82 ERA and 131 ERA+. He averages over a strikeout an inning and over a walk every other inning. Opposing batters average .216 against him.
He has a comforting 0.6 HR/9 ratio and an impressive 9.2 K/9 ratio, but his 4.9 BB/9 and 7.1 H/9 ratios and 1.3336 WHIP mean that while he may be very good at keeping the scoring under control, finding the plate can be a game of hide and seek for him and he usually enjoys a few baserunners watching him work while he does it.
By sending Medina to their Iowa farm club, the Cubs can work on his control issues until the big club's bullpen undergoes it's next assault and, perhaps, help him find the 94-95 mph fastball he had last season that's been sitting at 92.4 so far this year.