MINNEAPOLIS -- In the first major move under the new front office led by Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, the Twins and free-agent catcher Jason Castro on Wednesday finalized a three-year deal worth $24.5 million.
It fills a crucial need for the Twins, who were looking for a starting catcher with Kurt Suzuki a free agent after his 2017 option didn't vest. Castro, an All-Star in 2013, brings a strong defensive presence behind the plate and is known for his pitch-framing and pitch-calling abilities as well as his leadership skills.
"Catching was a focus of ours and Jason was a target early on, and not just from a player's standpoint," Falvey said. "A lot has been made about his defense, but we really look into the background of these guys. It's important for the culture of our team. He checked every box and then some."
Castro, 29, hit .210/.307/.377 with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs in 113 games with the Astros in 2016. The six-year veteran is a career .232/.309/.390 hitter with 62 homers, 114 doubles and 212 RBIs in 617 games.
But Castro is known more for his defense. He ranked as the fifth-best pitch-framer in baseball last season, according to StatCorner.com. He's also thrown out 26 percent of attempting basestealers in his career.
"Pitch-framing has come a long way the last couple years and has gotten more attention," Castro said. "It's something over the last couple years I've tried to refine as much as possible. It's something you naturally do as a catcher and it's not necessarily taught, but when there was this enlightenment or focus on this new topic of pitch-framing, I tried to get a better understanding of what worked."
Castro said he learned tips on pitch-framing from Astros manager A.J. Hinch, who was a big league catcher for seven seasons. The Twins are hopeful Castro can help influence a young pitching staff that didn't have the benefit of having an above-average pitch-framer this past year.
Falvey said pitch-framing was certainly a factor, but there's much more to catching than just that, and he saw it firsthand in Cleveland with the way Roberto Perez and Yan Gomes worked with their pitchers.
"Jason provides a lot more value than that," Falvey said. "There's the game planning and game calling. We thought Jason was one of the best at that. We're excited about seeing that play out and seeing Jason's role in helping develop our pitching."
As Falvey noted, Castro, who was selected with the No. 10 overall pick in the 2008 Draft out of Stanford, offers a veteran presence for the club's young pitching staff with his six years of Major League experience.
Castro will be the club's primary catcher, with John Ryan Murphy as his backup and Twins No. 23 prospect Mitch Garver waiting in the wings at Triple-A Rochester. Castro, a left-handed hitter, is also a much better hitter against right-handers, batting .247/.328/.424 in his career, which could lead to a loose platoon with the right-handed-hitting Murphy.
Castro reportedly had multiple three-year offers, with clubs such as the Braves and Rays getting linked to the backstop. But he said he chose Minnesota because he liked the direction the organization was headed in after talking to Falvey, Levine and Paul Molitor by phone as part of the process.
"They laid out their vision," Castro said. "Having played against the Twins the last few years, I know this organization is capable of great things. There's some young players mixed with veterans that can make a special group."