Rumors are swirling that the Astros had interest in trading for a former Houston catcher.
Former Astros catcher Martin Maldonado was traded from the Royals to the Cubs earlier this week, which in and of itself wasn’t that noteworthy. But the juicy tidbit came after the trade when The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported the Astros had interest in re-acquiring him to possibly replace Max Stassi.
With all the talk about the Astros upgrading the pitching staff, little attention has been given to the spot behind the plate. While it may not be the team’s most pressing need, there is some clear room for improvement.
Offseason pickup Robinson Chirinos had an excellent start to the season, even looking like potential All-Star reserve through early June. In his last 26 games, however, he’s seen his batting average drop 30 points, and he hasn’t homered since June 14. Chirinos isn’t a great defensive catcher, so his primary value lies in his bat.
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Stassi is the more defensively sound backstop, but he’s been an absolute liability at the plate. He missed nearly a month with an injury but hasn’t hit when he’s been healthy, possessing just a .171/.241/.224 line. It’s tough to stomach that no matter how good your defense is.
Amazingly, he’s actually been worse at throwing out baserunners than his teammate. Stassi has gunned down only 15 percent of would-be base stealers, while Chirinos has thrown out 21 percent. All told, Stassi has been worth -0.7 wins above replacement in just 26 games this season.
Who Are They Looking For?
It’s unlikely the Astros will get rid of Chirinos, so it’s Stassi’s job that’s up for grabs. Maldonado would have been a good fit as a defense-first catcher who’s posted better numbers than Stassi, both at the plate and in the field. Jeff Luhnow would probably look for someone along those same lines.
There’s not much in the way of rumors when it comes to backup catchers, so there’s not much to go on. Basically the Astros could use a defense-first catcher with a serviceable bat who could back up or play in a timeshare with Chirinos. There are a few options on non-contending teams.
Pedro Severino of the Orioles, Tom Murphy of the Mariners, Bryan Holaday of the Marlins and Tony Wolters of the Rockies would be possible fits. This is just my speculation, and it’s not clear if their teams would be interested in trading them or what the price tag would be.
Still, it says a lot that the front office is looking at possible replacements for the out-of-options Stassi. There’s certainly room to improve there, so stay tuned between now and July 31.
***Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference***