Entering Thursday, the Houston Astros are 36–21. They currently hold a 9.5 game lead over the second place Los Angeles Angels. They’ve got out to this large lead despite having an offense that has been middle of the pack for most of the year. There is more than one reason for Houston’s inconsistent offense, but one of the biggest reasons is the struggles at the catching position. The duo of Martin Maldonado and Jason Castro have combined to form a .118 batting average. They have nine combined extra-base hits and 76 strikeouts. The Astros franchise prioritizes defense and leadership at the position, which is understandable. Maldonado and Castro deliver on both of those ends. However, Houston is not getting much production from the bottom of the lineup, so an upgrade may be in the cards. These are some potential Astros catcher upgrade options.
Call Up Lee
Entering the 2022 season, catching prospect Korey Lee was the Astros’ number two prospect according to MLB.com. The 23-year old may be the Astros’ catcher of the future. After posting a .778 OPS across three levels of the minors in 2021, Lee has taken a step back so far this season at Triple-A Sugar Land. Through 46 games this season, Lee has a .670 OPS with 57 strikeouts. However, Lee is familiar with the pitchers in the organization, so from a catching perspective, the transition may not be a big jump. Offense may still be a question, but with the current struggles of the Astros’ catchers, it may be worth a shot.
Even though the Trade Deadline isn’t until August 2nd, it is never too early to start thinking about possible improvements to the team. It’s not always easy for catchers to learn pitching staffs in the middle of a season. However, these options can make the adjustments and lengthen the lineup. There are potential trade candidates that could be in the Astros’ sights across the league.
One of the best position players that could be on the trade market is Willson Contreras. The 30-year old catcher would be a big difference-maker. Contreras is in the midst of his best season yet, slashing .277/.403/.530 with 21 extra-base hits. Contreras has a lot of postseason of experience with the Chicago Cubs, and is a former World Series champ. The Venezuelan-born slugger will be a free agent after this season. While the asking price by the Cubs may be high, it won’t be sky-high, seeing as Contreras will be a rental for half the season.
Another potential option could also be on the Cubs. Yan Gomes, who is currently on the IL with an oblique issue, has been taking swings on the field. This likely means that barring any setbacks, Gomes isn’t far from embarking on a rehab assignment. Gomes certainly isn’t Contreras, but he is at least an average hitter with a .718 OPS. He has a lot of experience, including being a World Series champ. He is also a cheaper option with more years of control. Gomes is signed to his current deal for next season, and there is a team option for 2024. Both years he is owed $6 million. In 24 games this season, Gomes is hitting .247 with a pair of home runs.
It Might Be Time
Maldonado and Castro handle the pitching staff very well without a doubt. Houston’s pitching staff has been among the best in baseball. However, with the struggles of the Astros duo, there is a massive hole at the bottom of the Astros’ lineup. With a few potential Astros catcher upgrade options available, it might be time for Houston to make a move to upgrade the catching position.
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