When Jason Castro broke into the majors in 2010 the Houston Astros lost 86 games. In 2012, they lost 107. In 2013, Castro’s All-Star season, they lost 111.
He knows what rock bottom baseball feels like.
Castro also knows what it’s like to rise from the ashes, as the Astros made the playoffs in 2015 and were in the hunt this past season. So the new Twins catcher can draw some comparisons between the club he just left and the one he is joining.
“Having gone through that, it gives me a little bit of a perspective,’’ Castro said, “and just having played against the Twins and looking at their lineup and their roster and the pitchers they have here, I think that this group is a little bit ahead of the where the Astros were when we were in the middle of our consecutive 100-loss seasons.”
Castro on Wednesday was officially announced as the newest Twin, after signing a three-year contract worth $24.5 million. He will make $8.5 million in 2017, $8 million in 2018 and $8 million in 2019. It’s the most the Twins have spent on a free agent position player.
The Twins believe their pitching staff just got better because of Castro’s skills and savvy behind the plate. Several teams contacted Castro at the start of the free agency, with the Rays being among the teams known to have made a contract offer. The Twins and Castro reached agreement last week, and Castro arrived in the Twin Cities this week to take a physical and sign the deal.
“Having played against the Twins the last few years, I definitely know this organization is capable of doing some great things,” Castro said. “They have a lot of good young talent and some veterans thrown into the mix that can make for a special group. It was a good fit, and I’m excited to be here and be a part of it and to help the pitching staff.”
Castro has some power at the plate. But after his All-Star season — when he batted .276 with 18 home runs and 56 RBI — Castro's batting average over the last three seasons is .215, with 36 homers and 119 RBI. He said the physical demands behind the plate and getting mechanically out of whack has affected him some. He’s 8-for-28 with no home runs in eight games at Target Field.
He’s not here for his offense, though.
“We felt it was a way to not only improve that position itself, but to really impact all of the pitchers,” said Derek Falvey, the Twins chief baseball officer.
“You have someone like Jason Castro as a leader behind the plate, that’s a way to actually impact all of the pitchers without adding a pitcher. And I think Jason takes pride in that.”
Castro, 29, is known as one of the better pitch framers in the game. According to statcorner.com, he had 96 more pitches called strikes than what was expected. Getting a called strike three — or turning a 1-1 count into 1-2 — can’t be taken lightly.
“Basically the goal is, at the end of the day, to help your pitcher keep as many strikes as possible,” Castro said.
Falvey noted that Castro brings more than smooth glovework to the table.
“Leadership, game planning and game calling and all those other aspects of the position are integral to the development of the pitching staff,” Falvey said. “We felt Jason is one of the best at that and can really excel and help our guys in that way.”