Jason Castro (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
There is the potential this winter that Jason Castro becomes the second Houston Astros player signed to a long-term contract. But before that happens, there is another situation that we should look at.
The Minnesota Twins built their franchise around Joe Mauer. And deservedly so. The hometown product is a phenomenal hitter and a perennial contender for the batting championship.
That earned Mauer a $184 million contract, but there is one problem. He just cannot stay healthy. So for that reason, the Twins announced on Monday that he is moving to first base.
While it is hard to reconcile paying that much money to a first baseman who is not a power hitter — this had to be done. Aside from 2009 when Mauer hit 28 home runs and 2011 when he was injured for a large part of the season, the former catcher hit between seven and thirteen home runs in each year since his first full season of 2005. However, if healthy, the Twins can count on Mauer for between 80 and 90 RBI’s and a batting average in the .320’s.
And then when you factor in all of the intangibles Mauer brings to the table, it makes sense why the Twins would want him in the fold until 2018. But there is no way they would have given him the contract they did if they knew they would have to move him to first base.
First of all, moving him to first base was the right decision, because to say Mauer has battled injury problems is an understatement. The problem though, is that he is now overpaid for the position he plays. But this is better than the alternative, which is Mauer being out of the lineup.
With Jason Castro eligible for arbitration this season, this is a situation the Astros and Jeff Luhnow should be aware of.
The 26-year old catcher has had his share of knee and leg injuries throughout his young career and even this year, which was his first full season, ended early.
Now there is not a direct comparison to Mauer from Castro, but I think there is at least enough of a parallel to take it into account. Castro has more power than his Minnesota counterpart, but it does not stand out. I’m not sure Castro will ever hit more than 20-25 home runs, with similar RBI expectations to Mauer, so there is not a material difference to account for Mauer’s substantial batting average edge.
I bring this discussion to light since the Astros are planning to start long term contract discussions with Castro in January when the time comes to talk arbitration numbers.
Signing Castro to a long term contract is a very good idea. He is a home grown player who is the best player on the Astros. In 2013 he hit .276 with 18 home runs and 56 RBI’s. But his health has to be a concern.
I don’t think at this point committing to move the 26-year old to first base full time is the prudent move. Last season Bo Porter did a good job to limit Castro’s work behind the plate, but I think that needs to be done more this year and going forward. Between first base and designated hitter, there are plenty of opportunities to help keep Castro healthy.
However in the future, it is possible that Castro will have to be moved out of the catching position where he is more valuable from an offensive perspective. Even at first base though, Castro would still likely be an intricate part of the Astros offense, but they would need to make up the loss of power elsewhere.
When giving Castro a contract extension, this is something that must be considered and come into play when determining the length and dollars of any possible deal.