Catcher 22: Should Astros trade potential future impact players?

Just call it a swing year in the Astros’ reconstruction. Maybe not critical, but perhaps pivotal.

Since Jeff Luhnow has been running the show, he’s sent veterans like Wandy Rodriguez, J.A. Happ, Jed Lowrie, Brett Myers and Chris Johnson packing. As evidenced by the crazy-low payroll, there’s very little left to deal. Unless you want to start getting down to Oklahoma City or Corpus Christi.

Now, we hear teams may be calling about 26-year-old catcher Jason Castro, who had somewhat of a breakout 2013 season. He hit .276/.350/.485 in 120 games but often struggled defensively, and questions remain about his physical stability as a catcher.

But are there untouchables on this young roster? Would trading the team’s main catching option set back the Astros’ already-thin lineup prospects for 2014? Did Luhnow have a possible trade in mind when he brought up youngster Max Stassi last summer?

Trading Castro this winter could be treading on tenuous ground. But the possible return could provide significant upside if the Astros have actually determined that Stassi can handle the rigorous position at the major league level.

Trading Castro — or any young player — is also worth watching as it will indicate where the Astros believe they are in the rebuilding process. If Luhnow is still trying to reel in prospects, it could indicate he’s still in the restocking process. If it returns major league ready talent, it should indicate the team is ready to take the next step back to respectability.

The Astros established — or somewhat established — a small nucleus for the future this year. We can debate which players are in that nucleus, but trading any of these without reasonable replacements in place could be devastating.

Here’s the small nucleus. Not necessarily saying these guys will be around in 2016-17, but they will provide the bridge and may be the best options for 2014-15 until the reinforcements arrive.

Maybe add L.J. Hoes and Brad Peacock, but that should conclude the short list.

Assuming we all agree that any trades should bring talent for the major league roster, is there an untouchable list? Are there others who should be on the so-called untouchable list? Would trading an Altuve or Castro dramatically set the team back in 2014?


17 comments on “Catcher 22: Should Astros trade potential future impact players?

  1. I don’t think there should ever be an untouchables list. Now let me caveat that statement by saying that at some point you have to stop stockpiling prospects and waiting for currently rostered players to play at a major league level. Either they are fully functionable at the MLB level or they are trade bait. It is a thin line the GM has to walk; continue with someone who has demonstrated MLB quality versus trading for someone or prospects that demonstrate possibly better results. All this is just to say that next year we had better win a lot more games, and I don’t care what the name is on the back of the Astro jersey.


  2. The Astros quietly had a dilemma occur last year at catcher. When Stassi got healthy, they already had an All-Star catcher in Rene Garcia at CC. Stassi exploded with his bat, and when we kept calling up players from OKC to Houston, Garcia got sent to OKC to alternate at C/DH and they helped that team get to the playoffs. Stassi was starting and Cody Clark was assigned to CC, when Stassi got called up because of catching problems in Houson The Dilema now: Heineman did well at Lancaster and needs to go to CC. So you have Garcia, Perez and Stassi, all real good, young defensive and strong armed catchers(check out their CS rates if you don’t believe me) all at AAA and they need to play.
    When teams approach you about players at the trade deadline, they are looking for hump help to make the playoffs. But when they approach you in the offseason about your best player they want HIM! If they want him then they have to give you more than he is worth in order to get HIM. and it has to be at the same cost as he is or it is not cost effective.They want him because he is worth more to them than what they have and what they are willing to give up.
    Castro is valuable to us because of his bat and his cost to us. We have to get what we need to more than replace his bat in our lineup. By 2015 one of our four minor league catchers is going to be our starting catcher


  3. I’ve got no problem seeing Castro get moved. He is our best bat against right handed pitching. But what else? His knees won’t allow him to play a full season behind the plate. Defensively, he’s somewhat challenged.

    I think we’ll see quite a bit of Stassi in 2014.


  4. If the deal is right, you make it. That said, you don’t trade away someone at a vital position without having a replacement either in the deal or waiting in the wings. Here, we’ve got Stassi. We’ve got Corporan as a backup.

    Furthermore, at this stage I don’t think we should be trading valuable pieces such as Castro for anything other than established or MLB-ready players.


    • I’m pretty confident that Luhnow would not be giving Castro away. And he would not trade our starting catcher unless he had another plan for that position in place. Castro, based on his injury history at a relatively young age, might be approaching his peak value. And I’d guess that Luhnow quietly holds the knowledge that Castro is never going to be a standout behind the plate. Most all good teams have that guy.


  5. Don’t move him just to make a move. He isn’t prohibitively expensive at this point and his offensive value v. rhp is sufficient to play him. On this team he has value at C, 1B, or DH against rhp.

    daveb – my point yesterday was that if the Astros believe Springer is going to be a top 5 CF in the league the super 2 status wouldn’t matter because they’d give him an extension similar to Altuve (but for more money). They could get burned, however, as his tools allow us to imagine him being a fixture like McCutchen but his all or nothing approach could end up yielding Chris Young’s career track.


    • Fair thought Devin, but on the flipside, as I said, he’s accomplished everything a minor leaguer should have to in order to earn the job at the ML level. And holding him back is a bad message to send to other guys thinking about signing with this organization.


  6. A lot to chew on here:
    1) Castro came up about 10 plate appearances short of qualifying for batting stats. If he had a few more PAs he would have been ranked 15th in the AL in OPS – which is one of the best stats for judging a players hitting value to a team. That is 15th in the whole league – all players. And the only one younger than Castro was Mike Trout.
    2) For some perspective – Castro was tops on the Astros with a .835 OPS – Chris Carter was second with .770 and Brett Wallace was third at .716 – a huge drop-off.
    3) So, Castro has a lot of offensive value to the Astros (or another team) and I will point out that he did improve quite a bit against leftys last year as the season went on.
    4) However, he is below average behind the plate – plus it is apparent that he is not going to hold up as a catcher.
    5) To me – I think you keep Castro if you picture him as the 1B/ DH at this point. e.g. You move Singleton instead.
    6) However, I would definitely entertain moving him for a great package because I think he should not keep playing C. The problem is – other teams have to question whether he should stay behind the plate and his value is good but not great if moved elsehwere.

    This will be an interesting question to follow.

    One last point – like I showed in my ratings of the 2013 Astros last week – I don’t think there are any untouchables at the mlb level (I’ve convinced myself that there are some in the minors – Springer, Correa, McCullers, Appel, and a few others). So – if you think you have a ready made sub for Castro behind the plate and are staring at a good package in a trade – you have to consider it. But it better have some good / young / mlb ready talent.


  7. In point 4 you state that he won’t hold up as a catcher and he is not a good defensive catcher.
    In point 5 you state that if they see him as a DH/1B that they should move Singleton.
    My question is why? Singleton is a lefty glove and has lots of time at 1B. Castro is a righty glove, with no sideways mobility, has shown little ability to dig balls out of the dirt as a catcher. and has never played 1b and has one year as a good hitter and gets hurt hitting the bag at first because he has real weak knees from years of catching. Singleton is faster, healthier has more pure power and has all of his pre-arbitration years ahead of him.
    Castro’s OPS as a DH was 270 points lower this year.than his stats as a catcher.
    If they want to move Singleton, fine. But they better not do it thinking Castro is a first baseman because he most probably won’t be.


    • I guess my feeling oldpro is I think Castro can play 1B better than Chirs Carter and I believe that Singleton will have to prove something to make this team and by that I mean at AAA.
      Again – my last point and bottom line is that I would lean towards trading Castro … if they were offered a good package for him including mlb ready player(s) in the package. We are no longer in fire sale mode – we don’t need to trade him if we don’t like what is being offered.


  8. Hmmmm……..My thoughts are to trade Castro just to trade him, makes no sense.
    The trade would HAVE to bring back a MLB ready third baseman, and short stop,
    with POWER. I was one of the most vocal about his defensive woes, and since we haven’t even SEEN Stassi behind the dish……..we don’t know how he handles himself yet. The few fans who are left, will balk at this trade, and the possibility of NOT seeing Springer in center at the start of the next season. We need to get used to the idea that Luhnow WILL trade anyone, if the return is a better deal. I have no problem with his moves.


  9. Castro will catch next year, assuming the rumors are just rumors. What happens beyond next year is for beyond next year. There are alot of if’s in play – if Castro can’t catch, if Singleton is good, if Wallace can finally put something together, if Carter needs to play 1B for someone else to DH, if if if.

    Right now Castro is your catcher. He is better than average offensively, and will probably catch 100 games next year, DH another 10-15, and have better than average production.

    This time next year, when Stassi is ready for more playing time, when Perez is ready after his cup of coffee, let the arguments begin. It will be a good problem to have – but lots of things happen in a year.

    Didn’t catch the last article on super 2 – but my opinion is unchanged from day 1. Super 2 status will get you in trouble as a franchise. David Price was held back on it, and he made a commitment to get everything he could when it was his time at the time. Now it is, and Rays will probably have to trade him. I echo Dan’s points, show the kids you are about their success, don’t hold them back. He probably should have been in the lineup in August, but if you don’t start him (given a good spring) you are sending a very bad message about your franchise. Ask the Rays, they were tore up in every media outlet that cared to write about a Tampa team.


  10. I think the player that you don’t trade right now is Jose Altuve. We don’t have a second baseman in our system now who can deliver what he gives. He hits between .280 and .290, a rarity for 2b. He delivers average defense. He steals bases. He is signed and it is affordable.
    I am well aware of his shortcomings but he is the most reliable player we have in the lineup and he carries no injury or personal baggage. People like him. Opposing teams respect him. He is young and can improve his patience. Of our 25 man roster members, he is the one who would be hard to replace.
    I have never written this before. The article made me stop and think about it.


  11. I enjoy reading here. So many diverse opinions. Let me add a different reason why you might start trading MLB players and/or prospects. Initially all the overpaid veterans needed to be gone and are. The farm needed to be restocked and is. So the thought “you can’t have too many prospects” may be true, but you can have too few minor league teams to get them all playing time. So as commented above, you have to stagger your prospects, and when they get to 4-6 years in the minors (depending on age), it is time to be playing or be gone. IF you have 5 great 2B prospects, you can’t get them all playing time (same for all positions). That was why I thought the double up of starters last year in the minors was a stroke of genius. So you might trade a prospect or a MLer that becomes a star someplace else, but you just can’t sit them on the bench either. So to “trade down” and get more prospects seems silly. Trading up to get some MLers seems to be the best thing going forward. It is a good dilemma, but one still.


  12. I’m holding my breath and praying hard that the Astros don’t give up on Jon Singleton. But it’s something I’m fairly confident is going to happen. That he’ll be included in a deal for another pitcher or a big bat. I’ve watched this kid since low-A in Lakewood, NJ. Yes, I know all his numbers last season, but he’s just growing up …. made some kid mistakes ….. probably got a little bored with minor league ball and passed some time away after meaningless minor league ballgames by lighting up a little weed. It happens. Kids make mistakes. Give this guy a chance …. don’t package him up and hand him to some other organization that will watch him grow and flourish (like John Mayberry so many years ago). As for Ike Davis, I’d go even up Wallace for Davis. Possibly throw in a low-A mid-level pitcher the Mets might like. But that’s it. Actually, their bats really remind you of one another. And their approach. And why not? They came up in the same program at the same time — Wallace at 3B and Davis at 1B for Arizona State.


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