Astros linked to pair of veteran catchers
Much has been made of the Astros' plans behind the plate for the upcoming season. After being linked to Willson Contreras, Christian Vázquez and Sean Murphy, the Astros currently are left with Martín Maldonado and a couple of prospects in the wings as their options behind the plate.
We know Maldy isn't going anywhere. His contributions via game calling, pitch framing and neutralizing the running game cannot be emphasized enough. Even if a big name like Contreras had been landed, they likely would have spent their fair share of time at DH with Maldy getting plenty of starts behind the plate.
Unless a massive trade is swung (rumors have persisted about Daulton Varsho), Houston will roll into next year with Machete and then a backup filling a role similar to what Jason Castro did to start 2022.
Veterans Tucker Barnhart and Jorge Alfaro are the latest to be tied to the Astros. Michael Schwab of The Juice Box Journal is reporting the Astros have been in contact with both Barnhart and Alfaro in the last week. It appears if either were brought in, they would fill primarily a backup role.
Barnhart spent last season in Detroit after playing the first eight years of his career in Cincinnati. Two of his eight seasons there resulted in a Gold Glove. He struggled mightily at the plate in 92 games last season, finishing with a .221 BA and .554 OPS. He also showed signs of regression behind the plate, finishing with -6 defensive runs saved and in the 40th percentile of pitch framing, previously a strength.
Alfaro shows slightly more promise. He's a career .256 hitter with a .701 OPS. In 82 games last season, he posted a .667 OPS with seven home runs. He was -4 defensive runs saved and finished in the 32nd percentile in pitch framing. That said, he finished in the 96th percentile in pop time to 2B, and more curiously, 85th percentile in sprint speed. It's easy to imagine Alfaro pinch running for Maldy late in a tight game before catching the latter innings.
Like Maldy, he does damage when he connects, posting a max exit velocity of 115.2 last year, his fifth season finishing with a max exit velocity in the top five percent of the league.
Barnhart and Alfaro may not be the biggest of names, but there is value each can bring to the Astros. Who would you like to see as part of Houston's backstop duo next season?