The Martín Maldonado era in Houston is over. Dana Brown committed to Yainer Diaz as the full-time catcher early in the offseason, but rumors persisted there was mutual interest between the Astros and Maldonado on a reunion.
Last night put an end to any chance of a reunion. The Astros have agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal with Victor Caratini. Caratini will serve as the backup to Diaz, and should massively upgrade the Astros bench.
Houston Astros sign Victor Caratini
Caratini's biggest asset is his framing. His 6 catcher framing runs last season were ninth-best in the MLB. Maldy finished last in the MLB with -17 framing runs while Yainer was 12th-worst with -5. Caratini's greatest strength should go a long way to helping Diaz improve.
Caratini is also a competent hitter, which is a huge blessing for a backup catcher. Caratini hit .259 with a .711 OPS and 95 OPS+ last year. They obviously aren't All-Star numbers, but those are more than serviceable for a guy that will catcher every fourth day. Add in that he's a switch hitter, and he's a big boost.
His average exit velocity and hard-hit rate are all above average, and his 22.6% chase rate and 21.1% whiff rate are great.
Caratini's weaknesses are his arm and his blocking. His 2.06 pop time was fourth-worst in the game, so he's not going to throw out many runners.
Caratini finished with -2 blocks above average, allowing two more wild pitches and passed balls than anticipated.
But overall, his framing more than masks his weaknesses. All things told, Caratini's fielding run value of 3 was good for the 72nd percentile. Maldy's fielding run value of -16 was third-worst in the MLB across all positions.
Caratini also can play first base. His ability to do so should enable the Astros to give José Abreu more days off, and hopefully keep the aging veteran fresh and in the form he displayed in the postseason.
While Maldy was great for many years here, but simply got too much playing time in his final year.
With Yainer Diaz catching the majority of starts, and Caratini taking every third or fourth start, both Houston's offense and defense receive a huge boost. It's rare that signing a backup catcher is such a splash, but Dana Brown hit this one out of the park.