One of the bigger changes that the Houston Astros are making going into 2024 with regards to their lineup is at catcher. Martin Maldonado had been a constant presence behind the plate in Houston since 2019 where he was well known as a strong defender as well as an important cog in the management of the Astros' pitching staff. Even though he was never a strong hitter, he made up for that shortcoming in the field.
Well, at least he DID make up for it. The problem in 2023 was that everything started to go south for Maldonado last season to the point where he was among the worst players in baseball. Unfortunately, being a 37 year old catcher with 13 seasons under his belt eventually just caught up with him. More unfortunately, manager Dusty Baker essentially refused to play the strictly better Yainer Diaz over Maldy in most situations last year which led to some less than desirable outcomes for the team.
Well, Dusty has retired, Maldonado hit free agency this offseason, and Houston publicly committed to making Diaz their primary catcher going forward. While there were rumblings that the Astros were entertaining the idea of bringing Maldonado back as their back-up catcher, signing Victor Caratini basically put an end to that possibility earlier this offseason. Last night, Maldy's time with the Astros officially came to an end as he signed a deal with the White Sox.
Martin Maldonado signs deal with White Sox, ending his time with the Astros
Look, Maldonado's 2023 season was no fun for anyone to watch. Maldy couldn't control the running game anymore which was pretty bad given that teams were running a lot more in the wake of the rules changes and he clearly lost a step in every aspect of the game. As a respected veteran on the roster, Houston played him much more than they probably should have and it was clear by the end of the season that his time as a primary catcher on a contender needed to come to an end.
It is sad to see Martin go, but Astros fans should be glad that he managed to find a big league contract that will allow him to hang around the league for at least one year longer (or more if his White Sox option vests) while preventing him from being dead weight in the Astros' lineup. Hopefully he does great in Chicago.
Ideally, Maldonado plays a couple more seasons in the league and eventually returns to Houston as a coach because as sad as the end of his Astros' tenure was, he was a big part of the Astros' success the last few years and he definitely could bring a lot to the table as a coach and mentor down the line. For now at least, we only wish him nothing but the best.