RHP Santiago Casilla – 36 years old
2016: San Francisco Giants
Casilla’s name is buried behind Chapman, Jansen, and Melancon in this free agent class, but he’s a perfectly capable option for teams looking to solidify the back end of their bullpen.
The 36-year-old Dominican has 88 saves over the past three seasons with the San Francisco Giants, and a relatively poor 2016 season represented his first ERA over 2.85 since 2010. That was Casilla’s first year in San Francisco after coming over from the Oakland Athletics as a struggling reliever.
The big question facing Casilla in free agency is whether his moderate regression in 2016 was a blip on the radar or a sign of something larger in his 13th MLB season. Besides, back-end relievers in their late-30s don’t have the most reliable track record.
One area that hurt Casilla in 2016 was home runs. The eight he allowed tied a career high, and if his 1.2 home runs per nine innings drops back down to his career average (0.8), his ERA begins to normalize rather quickly. Casilla’s fly ball percentage and hard contact percentage both grew in 2016 compared to recent averages, so there’s a chance those are merely outliers.
Casilla’s velocity stayed true in 2016, so there are not any signs of arm fatigue at this point. When he’s at his best, Casilla pounds the zone with a two-seam fastball and attacks hitters with a plus curveball. He’s also capable of a ground ball rate above 50%, which brings value in a defensively strong Blue Jays infield.
In the context of Toronto, Casilla — and most other high-quality right-handers — would be brought in to fill the Joaquin Benoit role from 2016. A trusted, veteran presence for manager John Gibbons that allows him to be as flexible as possible with Osuna, Grilli, and his left-handers.
Casilla won’t quite reach the years or dollars of the closers at the top of the market, but a comfortable two-year deal is easy to envision. His choice will come between closing for a mid-level team or setting up for a contender.
After the big three names fall off the board, Casilla could also represent ‘Plan B’ for several teams. In that scenario, it’s possible that his price tag gets a sudden jolt as front offices scramble to leave free agency with something in their ‘pen.
Likelihood: Heavily dependant on his market, but Toronto has had luck with grizzled righties…
Next Up: A Pirates reclamation project? You don’t say…