The Houston Astros are signing catcher Martin Maldonado to an extension.
Despite being off to a rough start at the plate, Martin Maldonado is having his contract extended. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand first reported that the Houston Astros were discussing an extension with their starting catcher, and Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle confirmed the two sides are in agreement.
The extension will cover the 2022 season and contain a vesting option for 2023. Maldonado, who’ll turn 35 in August, is in his fourth season with the Astros, the first two of which were partial seasons. Former GM Jeff Luhnow traded for him in both 2018 and 2019 before the club finally inked him to a two-year, $7 million deal prior to the 2020 season.
Now it appears the pairing of Maldonado and Jason Castro will continue through next season, giving the Astros an experienced and relatively inexpensive catching tandem. Castro was signed to a two-year, $7 million deal prior to this year, and while we don’t know the financial terms of Maldonado’s extension yet, he’s unlikely to make significantly more than he’s making now.
Offensively there isn’t much to write home about, as Maldonado is hitting .206/.297/.379 in his Astros career and only .094/.121/.094 in the earlygoing this year. But he’s a strong defensive catcher and is continually praised for his work with the pitching staff. He’s a veteran leader and brings a great deal of value that can’t be measured in statistics.
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Why the Astros Are Doing It
Top prospect Korey Lee, the team’s first round draft pick in 2019, is still viewed as the catcher of the future. He’s ranked as the organization’s No. 5 prospect by MLB Pipeline, noting his strong throwing arm and raw power. He has the makings of a great everyday catcher and possibly an All-Star at the position.
Though he turns 23 in July, Lee has only appeared in 64 games in the minor leagues, all of which came at Low-A ball in 2019. The cancellation of the minor league season in 2020 and the delayed start to it this year mean he likely won’t be ready to take on the primary catching duties for the major league team in 2022. That’s probably just asking too much.
So the hope is that he’ll be ready to take over in 2023. Castro’s contract will be done by then, and even if Maldonado’s option vests, having him around to mentor the young gun could be a great thing. It’s entirely possible Maldonado finishes his career in Houston, and this extension puts him closer to doing just that.