Astros Rumors: Are the Houston Astros interested in Jonathan Lucroy?
The Houston Astros have had an offseason that was quieter than the one before the 2015 season, but the Astros did improve their team for 2016 season. The Astros moved some bad salaries off the roster in Chris Carter, Chad Qualls, and Hank Conger, so you might say that they have had some additions through subtractions this offseason. The Astros have also shipped off five prospects for Ken Giles, re-signed Tony Sipp, and added Doug Fister on Thursday to round out the Astros rotation. The Astros appeared done, as a chipper Jeff Luhnow pronounced through Brian McTaggart’s Tweet below, “Astros not looking to do anything else at this point.”
He did say that they would continue to listen to other teams and players but are not actively looking to add anything to the 2016 Astros roster. The Astros shipped off their best catching prospects in Jacob Nottingham in the Scott Kazmir trade. Why is this important now? The Astros and Jason Castro appear to be going to arbitration hearings over a small amount of money in his final season of team control with the Houston Astros, which could strain the relationship at a critical time. Should the Astros say the wrong thing at the hearing, this could lead to Castro not returning to the Astros in 2017 season.
No offense to any of the current Astros catching prospects, but none of the current prospects are considered can’t miss guys. Max Stassi has been the catcher in waiting for a few years now, but he hasn’t made that much of an impact with his time in the big leagues. Other candidates for catchers include Trent Woodward, Tyler Heineman, Roberto Pena, and Alfredo Gonzalez. While these guys are not Buster Posey type players, they are mostly known for their defensive abilities behind the plate.
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There has been some talk this offseason that the Astros could be looking at moving Evan Gattis back to catching a little, but whether he is allowed to make this transformation is still to be seen. I wrote recently that the Gattis does not want to be labeled a designated hitter, so he lost 18-pounds this offseason to be more flexible. Could this decision to allow Gattis to start catching again being a preemptive move for possibly losing Castro.
However, there is another option out there that Nick Cafaro suggested recently; he has heard rumors that there is something Brewing with Jonathan Lucroy, and he suggested that the Astros and Nationals have both shown interest in him in the past. While Lucroy would only be under team for 2016 ($4 M) and 2017 ($5.25 M), this would give the Astros two seasons to develop a catcher. Before last season, Lucroy seemed to be one of the top catchers in the game, but injuries added t insult as he struggled last season.The article suggests that Castro would then play a little more at first, but I don’t see that.
The Brewers are in the middle of a rebuilding period, which could have explained some of his struggles last year. I don’t think that the Astros would trade for Lucroy now because they still have control of Castro for one more season. However, after a down season, he might be cheaper to trade for right now, until he can prove that he can return to being one of the top catchers in the game again. The Brewers are not going anywhere right now, so they can look to develop one of their young guys at catcher. Also, Lucroy can play first, so he could catch on Castro’s days off and platoon with Jon Singleton at first base until A.J. Reed is ready to take over.
As I predicted the other day, I think the Lucroy to Houston talk will be more centered at the 2016 MLB Trade Deadline in July. Should the Astros wait, it could cost them more if he rebounds to his top form. Should Castro be banged up at the time, the Astros could turn to Lucroy to fill in at catcher. As much as I would like Lucroy, I don’t think it is time right now, but we need someone to rise in 2016. Maybe Stassi will put things together in 2016, but let’s see how spring training goes.