The 2013 season for the Astros consisted of nightmares in nearly every facet of the game. But there were a few positives during the season. Perhaps the most notable was the emergence of an All-Star catcher named Jason Castro. Now what lies in his future?
With their first selection in the 2008 Amateur Draft, the Houston Astros selected Jason Castro out of Stanford University with the 10th overall pick. He signed with the Astros and put his academics on the back burner. He recently was able to finish his degree and graduated this past off-season.
Jason made his professional debut with the Tri-City Valley Cats in the 2008 season. He was quickly promoted through an Astros farm system that was dry of significant talent. After being on MLB’s Top 100 Prospects list prior to the 2009 and 2010 campaigns, ranked #53 and #41 respectively, Jason made four stops in the system prior to an MLB call-up in 2010. The call-up was likely premature as he struggled to a .205 batting average in 195 at-bats.
For the 2011 season, Castro was expected to start for the Astros and split playing time with Humberto Quintero. Unfortunately he tore his ACL during a Spring Training game. This required surgery to repair the torn ACL and damaged meniscus which would cost him the entire season. He followed his lost year sharing playing time with Chris Snyder and managed to bat .257 in 87 games.
Castro recuperated from the rough beginning to post a breakout campaign in 2013. Jeff Luhnow and the fans were able to see why Castro could be a fixture in the lineup for years at Minute Maid Park. He earned an All-Star game selection with a .269/.331/.475 line but Jim Leyland did not find playing time in the American League’s 3-0 win over the National League. During the first half of the 2013 season, Castro compiled a 2.5 WAR, ranking 5th of the 14 qualified catchers on Fangraphs.
Knee problems crop up again for Castro, costing him the final month of the 2013 campaign. Still, fans were able to see Castro break the Astros franchise record for catchers with 35 doubles. Jason finished with a .276/.350/.485 slash line along with two AL Player of the Week awards. Castro was able to appear in 120 games prior to the cyst in his knee causing the Astros to shut him down as a precaution.
(Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
Castro is and will likely continue to be a centerpiece for the Houston Astros moving forward. But last offseason, Jed Lowrie was preparing to be a leader for the Houston Astros. In a somewhat shocking trade, Fernando Rodriguez was sent along with Lowrie to the Oakland Athletics. Brad Peacock, Max Stassi, and Chris Carter were packaged to Houston in return. Perhaps comparing the two players is a bit of a stretch. Lowrie and Castro both have been injury prone and they both impressed with their offensive power but neither was able to play a full season. Lowrie was acquired via a trade while Castro was drafted by the Astros.
This past offseason has seen Astros owner Jim Crane promise a budget increase. Early in the offseason fans were tense as no deals were made. Suddenly there was the trade for Dexter Fowler. Then the Astros brought back Chad Qualls and Matt Albers. They even signed a product of the University of Houston in Jesse Crain. Next on the Astros’ agenda is the contractual terms for the arbitration-eligible Jason Castro.
Three Scenarios for Jason Castro
- Salary Arbitration
- Contract Extension
Early in the offseason, MLB Trade Rumors had a series of posts where they analyzed the arbitration cases of the past. They applied their calculations to determine predictions of every arbitration eligible player for the 2014 season. Jason Castro was the only eligible Astro and was predicted to earn $2.3 million through the process. Both the player and the team must submit their salary figure by January 17th with hearings beginning February 1.
There is another option on the table. Castro and the ‘Stros could agree to a contract on their own. Perhaps a contract extension could be in the cards. Last summer the Astros signed fan favorite Jose Altuve to an extension. Earlier in the offseason, Luhnow said that extending Castro is something the Astros would like to do. Altuve is signed through 2017 with team options for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
This offseason has suggested that the Astros are ready to start adding to their core of players. Castro is obviously a fan favorite. But his value is high and his injuries are a cause of concern. The Astros are sure to have had offers for the catcher. The front office would need to be overwhelmed by an offer from another team. If the return is significant enough, I would like to see Castro traded. His injury history worries me.
The Houston Astros will likely agree to a contract that keeps their All-Star catcher in the Houston uniform. That would ensure the continuation of an anagrammed battery between Castro and Cosart. But I would not be surprised to see the Astros take another gamble by dealing their prized catcher for prospects.