Just over three weeks into the 2023 regular season, the Houston Astros, last year's World Series winners, sit at 12-11, 2.5 games behind the first-place Texas Rangers.
The win-loss record may not properly indicate how well the Astros have been performing. On offense, Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker and Alex Bregman remain top-shelf players while most of the pitching staff has looked sharp as well.
If there are any major criticisms to make about the team's current 26-man roster, it's the fact that it has three catchers on it.
The idea of having three catchers on any given club's active roster makes sense. Especially when one of those can play other positions (see: Garrett Stubbs or Yainer Díaz), but it just feels like a wasted roster spot. Instead of carrying a player who can bounce around the infielder and/or outfield, there are two players who serve the exact same role.
This roster crunch can be resolved by optioning the one player who has gotten next to no playing time so far this season, and that would be 27-year-old César Salazar. The lefty-swinging backstop has made just one start so far, registering two hits in seven at-bats along the way.
The Houston Astros are tempting fate by carrying three catchers.
Injuries can and frequently do happen in Major Leauge Baseball. It can be scary to think that this Astros team is one injury away from being down to one of Rylan Bannon or David Hensley on the bench alongside two players who are best served as playing catcher. Mixed with Dusty Baker's unwillingness to pinch hit for Martín Maldonado late in games, this is a disaster waiting to happen.
Salazar somewhat unexpectedly had a red-hot spring to force his way onto the Opening Day roster. He has bounced around a bit defensively throughout his minor league career but is certainly a catcher by trade. His bat looked solid last year in Double-A (16 home runs and 54 RBI in 85 games), but he has not gotten enough of a chance to show it off at the game's highest level.
To get him more playing time, the best move here is for the Astros to option him to Triple-A. Regular at-bats are important for him, but it's also important for the Astros to fill his spot on the bench with a multi-positional player who can fill in around the diamond more efficiently, perhaps Joe Perez.