To make room for Jack Cust on the 40-man roster the Astros have designated Craig Tatum for assignment. The former Orioles backstop was claimed off waivers back in October by since-deposed G.M. Ed Wade. Now it appears as though Tatum’s tenure with the Astros could be over before it ever started. But that may not necessarily be the case.
If Tatum clears waivers the Astros could decide to keep him in the organization and send him to the minor leagues. This is certainly a scenario I can see playing out. I don’t think too many teams will be lining up to acquire a 28 year-old catcher who is an average defender and hovers around the Mendoza line with the bat. But I could be wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time. Jason Castro will probably still be recovering from foot surgery when the season starts, leaving Humberto Quintero as the only healthy catcher on the roster. Carlos Corporan has been invited to Spring Training as a non-roster player and could serve as the back-up until Castro is ready.
With Castro’s health still in question the Astros could use another back-up, or even a starter. If Tatum isn’t that guy, then who is? There are a couple of nice prospects in the organization but neither is ready for the show. Ben Heath and Chris Wallace have combined to play only 40 games at the AA level. So who will bridge the gap while Heath and Wallace continue to hone their skills? Might the Astros look outside the organization for an upgrade behind the plate?
Although I view Jack Cust as little more than a potential power bat off the bench, it is possible that the Astros see him as a replacement for Carlos Lee. If the Astros can deal Lee, as Alex suggested, that would open up a roster spot for another catcher. Unfortunately the Free Agent market for catchers is almost non-existent. Actually, that market has Astros written all over it! Guys like Chris Snyder and Ramon Castro should come with a bargain basement price tag.