DJ Panda Crusher has left the Houston Astros via Trade
The Houston Astros traded Hank Conger to the Tampa Bay Rays for cash considerations at the non-tender deadline. Conger, 27, batted .229 with 11 HRs and 33 RBI.
Conger was acquired from the Angels for Nick Tropeano and Carlos Perez in 2014. The Astros were able to free up 40-man roster spots and pick up a quality defensive catcher in Conger. In addition to his pitch framing abilities, Conger bats from both sides of the plate and hits righties far better than he does lefties. Conger had never hit a home run off of a left-handed pitcher at the Major League level until 2015 when he blasted 4 of his career-high 11. He also posted a career-high .279 average as a right-handed hitter. His higher walk rate came with a higher K rate, and he finished the season with a 0.5 WAR.
As Jason Castro finished the season as one of the league’s top defensive catchers, Conger struggled in the opposite direction. In 2015, Conger allowed an astounding 42 of 43 stolen base attempts. Castro blossomed into an excellent pitch framer, finished fifth in the league in throwing out base stealers and was a Gold Glove finalist at catcher. Conger’s performance was simply not enough to warrant a coveted Astros roster spot.
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In the post-Conger world, the Astros have many options. Tyler Flowers was surprisingly non-tendered by the White Sox. Flowers, 29, is a great pitch framer and hit 15 HR in 2014. As for internal options, the Astros have Max Stassi and Alfredo Gonzalez on their 40-man roster. Stassi, 24, is an MLB-ready backup with 21 MLB games under his belt, but his bat slowed this year at Triple A Fresno. Gonzalez, 23, was added to the 40-man roster on November 20th. Unlike Castro, Conger, and Stassi, Gonzalez hit .321 with a .409 OBP over 249 at-bats. His inclusion on the 40-man was largely to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, but consistent performance and refined defense could find him with the Astros sooner than later.
CTH editor Eric Huysman also interviewed a dark horse candidate in Trent Woodward. You can read it here: Astros Prospects: Keeping up with Trent Woodward (Interview).
Conger emerged as a fan favorite thanks to his clubhouse antics and home run celebrations. He was symbolic of a youthful, joyous, and confident Astros team that exceeded all expectations in a thrilling 2015. We wish him all the best in Tampa Bay.