Yankees claim former prospects off of waivers, placing him on the 40-man roster

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees continue to add Minor League depth as they pick up former prospect Diego Castillo off of waivers from the New York Mets, meaning he’s currently on the team’s 40-man roster. Originally signed by the Yankees as an international free agent, the 26-year-old infielder was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the deal that brought closer Clay Holmes to the Bronx. In his brief MLB career, Castillo has struggled to find MLB success, slashing just .205/.250/.380 across 97 games for a 71 wRC+ and -0.2 fWAR, but his versatility should make him a viable option in case of injury.

As a corresponding move, the Yankees have DFA’d Jeter Downs, another infielder they claimed off of waivers this winter, as they look to stock up on MLB-ready infield options.

Yankees Add Infield Depth to Their 40-Man Roster

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates
Oct 5, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Diego Castillo (64) hits an RBI double against the St. Louis Cardinals during the fourth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Diego Castillo had spent his entire career up until the 2021 Trade Deadline with the New York Yankees, sporting a strong hit tool that anchored his profile at the plate, but the team ultimately decided he was worth trading alongside Hoy-Jun Park for Clay Holmes. That trade proved to be the right call by Brian Cashman, as Holmes has blossomed into one of the best relievers in baseball while both Castillo and Park have both moved on from the Pirates. This past season the 26-year-old infielder spent the entire season in Triple-A with the Arizona Diamondbacks’ organization.

In 124 games the right-handed hitter slashed .313/.431/.410, striking out just 14.2% of the time for a 117 wRC+, although he only hit three home runs due to a low flyball rate (27.3%). The Yankees were able to better tap into his game power when he was with the organization, as in Double-A with the Somerset Patriots in 2021 he hit 11 home runs in 58 games, and Castillo does have a knack for pulling the ball in the air. Given his experience all over the infield, the Yankees could view him as a versatile weapon, but it’s unclear if he’ll eventually be used as a DFA option.

Similarly to Oscar Gonzalez and the aforementioned Jeter Downs, Diego Castillo doesn’t have an excellent track record in the Major Leagues, and with the Yankees looking to make additions to their bullpen, they could have more roster spots to clear in the coming weeks. Luke Weaver, who was signed to a one-year $2 million contract, has yet to be officially announced, and the Yankees could use Castillo as an easy DFA in-case they cannot work out a deal to clear room for the right-handed swingman.

mlb: arizona diamondbacks at new york yankees, luke weaver
Sep 22, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Luke Weaver (30) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Bullpen depth is the focus for the Yankees right now, who are linked to relievers such as Robert Stephenson, Keynan Middleton, and Wandy Peralta. While it seemed unlikely that they would hand Josh Hader a megadeal, his signing with the Houston Astros could complicate a potential reunion with Hector Neris, who the Yankees have been linked to by various reporters. The Texas Rangers, who were the presumed favorites for Josh Hader, could pivot to the 34-year-old right-hander as well.

He’s believed to be searching for a two-year deal, and the Yankees would certainly entertain the addition of a high-leverage arm on a short-term deal. The nucleus of their pitching staff is largely in place, but they want to make a final addition to shore their roster up and press on into Spring Training.