Astros Rumors: Team is seeking long-term catching options
After a quiet week, the Astros rumors return with them looking for long-term catching help.
The sky is blue and the Astros need catching help again. It has seemed like there has always been a need for a catcher with only a handful of quality catchers in franchise history. When the Astros traded for Brian McCann, they did find a temporary fix at that position. McCann is great, but is in his final year of his contract and is 33-years-old. The Astros should be looking for a long-term option at catcher.
According to Jon Heyman, the Astros are indeed looking for a long-term option for a catcher. McCann was the exclusive catcher throughout the playoffs as the team soured on Evan Gattis catching. Gattis is in his last year of arbitration before he reaches free agency in 2019. Gattis has already been told that he will be the primary DH option in 2018, not the backup catcher.
Who is the backup catcher for 2018?
The Astros lost Juan Centeno on waivers to the Rangers this offseason, meaning that Max Stassi is the leader for the backup spot. The Astros brought in a minor league option in Tim Federowicz, but he is the equivalent of Erik Kratz. Garrett Stubbs is another option, but he may profile better as a backup catcher.
After all the years of settling at the catcher spot, the Astros got the taste of having a respectable option as a catcher. McCann didn’t reach 20 homers for the first time since 2007. He hit 18 homers and batted .241 in 2017. McCann could be on the decline, but he was what the Astros needed in 2017.
Looking outside the organization?
That’s why you have seen the Astros tied to Jonathan Lucroy this offseason. Lucroy is coming off a down season with the Rangers and Rockies. He batted .265 with only six homers and 40 RBIs. This was a far cry from his .292 and 24 homers 2016 campaign. He is 31-years-old but could be a prime candidate for a comeback season.
They could probably get Lucroy to sign as the backup catcher for 2018 with the option to play first base or be the DH. Then when McCann hits free agency, he would become the full-time catcher in 2019. Still, I don’t see the Astros going longer than three years for Lucroy coming off a down season.
Heyman did suggest Lucroy, but also mentioned another more intriguing name. A name that Ric Sweeny has written about at CTH. Heyman mentioned that the Astros could turn to J.T. Realmuto of the Marlins. They are already having a fire sale, so why not go after one of the rising catchers in the game. Realmuto hit .278 with 17 homers with 65 RBIs and eight stolen bases.
The problem with Realmuto is that he is young and cheap under team control through 2020. You would be trading for three years of Realmuto, so maybe the Astros wait till next offseason. According to Jon Morosi, the Marlins are involved in “active trade discussions” with multiple teams on Realmuto and Christian Yelich.
Even though there are active talks, the price is high for both Yelich and/or Realmuto. The Astros don’t really like to trade their top prospects, so that will be a sticking point to any potential trade. Unlike Giancarlo Stanton, Realmuto is not making a lot of money, so you would have to give up some top prospects. If the trade doesn’t involve Forrest Whitley or Kyle Tucker, then maybe they can reach a deal.
Next: Astros: Taking inventory before 2018
Will the Astros take the safe route of signing Lucroy or go the bold route of trading for Realmuto? McCann is the catcher for now, and a good one, but they are looking to the future. That is the benefits of where the Stros are, they can look ahead to the future while winning now. Ain’t it great to be a Houston fan?
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***