Padres see upside in Castillo Minors deal

MiLB staff finalized; more international signings announced

January 18th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres’ November decision to non-tender José Castillo, thereby removing him from their 40-man roster, wasn't a straightforward one.

Castillo owns some of the filthiest stuff in the Padres' bullpen. His fastball/slider combo induces whiffs at an elite clip. When healthy, Castillo has the makings of one of the sport's most dominant left-handed relievers.

“When healthy,” being the issue, of course.

Now, Castillo is back with San Diego, having signed a Minor League deal over the weekend. The Padres are hopeful Castillo can buck his recent run of poor injury luck and factor into their 2022 bullpen mix.

"We're excited to bring José back," said Padres general manager A.J. Preller. "Everybody that's seen him knows what his ability is when he's healthy. That's just the biggest key."

No kidding. Castillo authored a breakout 2018 rookie season in which he posted a 3.29 ERA, a 0.91 WHIP and 12.2 K/9 – numbers that made some wonder whether he might be future closer material. Since then, however, he's thrown all of two-thirds of an inning on a big league mound.

Castillo dealt with elbow trouble in 2019, then after a brief return, tore a ligament in his pitching hand. In '20, back issues forced him to miss the entire season. Then, in March '21, he underwent Tommy John surgery.

Mired in a 40-man roster crunch, the Padres opted not to tender a big league contract to Castillo. But the team was always hopeful he’d return. The Padres have a relatively deep big league bullpen already, but Preller has espoused the need for pitching depth, particularly after last season's spate of injuries.

As such, the Padres are pleased to have Castillo back in the fold. Preller offered no timetable for Castillo’s potential return. But if his recovery goes smoothly, Castillo would offer a potential midseason boost to the San Diego bullpen.

"It's been a couple years now, so from his standpoint, he's super excited to be back in the fold,” Preller said. “We're looking forward to seeing him back on the mound. So far, he's had a really good offseason from a health standpoint."

The Padres also agreed to a Minor League deal with catcher Webster Rivas, who batted .221/.303/.338 in 24 games with the Padres last season. Barring injury, Rivas isn’t expected to seriously compete for a big league role this spring.

Padres announce Minors staff
The Padres announced their full Minor League coaching staffs on Tuesday, with Jared Sandberg set to take over as manager of the Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas after spending the past two seasons as Mariners bench coach.

In a bit of a reshuffling at the Triple-A level, Mike McCarthy will take over as pitching coach, having spent the previous four seasons in the Twins' organization. Meanwhile, Jonathan Mathews, who has served at several levels of the organization, including on the big league staff in 2017, will assume the role of hitting coach in El Paso. Robby Hammock, a former big league catcher for the D-backs who played under Padres skipper Bob Melvin, will serve as Triple-A bench coach.

Philip Wellman remains the team's Double-A manager at San Antonio, with Brian Esposito taking over as manager of Class A Advanced Fort Wayne. Esposito had spent the previous four years as the Pirates' Triple-A manager. Eric Junge, in his 10th season with the organization, will serve as manager at Class A Lake Elsinore. He'd previously spent time as pitching coordinator and pitching instructor.

New international signings announced
After their three-player splash on international signing day, the Padres weren't done.

The team announced seven more signings over the weekend: lefty Braian Salazar, shortstops Olivier Cedeño and Alain Camou, center fielders Estuar Suero and Eizon Delgado, SS/CF Juan Murillo and third baseman Maikol Muñoz.

Additionally,'s Jesse Sanchez reported that the Padres have agreed to a deal with outfielder Jason Conliffe of the Bahamas.

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association finalized a deal in March 2020 that addressed the international signing period during the pandemic. The 2022 international signing period runs through Dec. 15, 2022, the second year in a row the period, which previously began July 2, started in January.

The current rules also state that teams are not allowed to trade any of their international pool money. Signing bonuses of $10,000 or less do not count toward a club's bonus pool, and foreign professional players who are at least 25 years of age and have played in a foreign league for at least six seasons are also exempt.