J.T. Realmuto always felt like an unlikely target for the Houston Astros and their chances of signing the free-agent catcher are slim to none.
The Astros being interested in Realmuto is no surprise. He is the best catcher in baseball and would provide a significant upgrade to the team’s lineup, especially with George Springer highly unlikely to return and Michael Brantley unsigned on the free agent market.
But the cost to sign Realmuto – likely a four or five-year deal worth more than $20 million per season – combined with the draft pick compensation that it would take to sign him, made a deal virtually impossible for Houston. The Astros, of course, have been stripped of their top two picks in the upcoming drafts and are actively looking to rebuild their farm system. Signing Realmuto, and parting with another top draft choice, would be counterproductive to what general manager James Click is trying to do.
Even then, the Astros giving a similar deal to Realmuto, a player they’re much less familiar with, rather than Springer makes little sense.
The team figures to spend much of their available payroll space upgrading the outfield and bullpen, with some of it being dedicated to finding a legitimate backup to put alongside Martin Maldonado. The team is interested in free-agent catcher Jason Castro and there were reports that talks were “serious,” though their interest appears to have been exaggerated with other teams, including the Chicago Cubs, also showing interest.
There are several options the Astros can pivot to, with Kurt Suzuki being one of them. He has extensive major-league experience and like Maldonado, is no longer an everyday catcher. The two can spell one another and be signed to cheap short-term deals as the front office looks to build a sustainable contender.
Realmuto, while an incredibly appealing option, would not be that piece for the Astros in the long-term. Suzuki, Castro or any other low-cost catcher would provide short-term insurance while maintaining the financial flexibility in the long haul.