The $250,000 message to Jason Castro

So, as readers here are aware, the Astros exchanged arbitration numbers with catcher Jason Castro recently. Castro and his agent, Relativity Baseball, have asked for $5,250,000. The Astros countered with an even $5 million.

In the grand scheme of baseball salaries, a lousy quarter million dollars is chump change. And in the end, it doesn’t matter. This is arbitration. If the two sides cannot decide on an amount, Castro will either play for $5 million or $5.25 million.

But when it comes to 2017, Castro’s first year in free agency, the fact that Luhnow is drawing such a strict line means Castro is probably on his way out, especially if he has a middling year like he did in 2015.

Defensively, Castro’s 1.2 dWAR. Not bad, but how did he compare to other catchers? Well, in the AL, his Rdrs/yr (defensive runs saved averaged over 1,200 innings or roughly 135 games) was 15, which ranked third in the AL among catchers who caught at least half of their team’s games. His RF/G (range factor/game) was fifth best among those catching half their games. And he caught a decent 36 percent of runners trying to steal.

The problem for Castro is that he did all this while putting up a .211/.283/.365 slash line with just 11 HRs and a K-rate at about 34 percent.

Good defense. Not great, but pretty good. But lousy offense.

Meanwhile, in small sample sizes, Max Stassi’s defensive numbers were way better than Castro’s numbers. And, honestly, can his offense be any worse?

Well, maybe. His slash line — in Fresno — was .211/.279/.384 with 13 HRs and a 32 percent K-rate.

The “other” two catchers at AAA in 2015 were Luis Flores and Trent Woodward. Flores seems like a place holder. Woodward, meanwhile, across four levels — he skipped Lancaster — .284/.361/.345 with just one homer but a K-rate below 25 percent. He certainly won’t be ready in 2016, but 2017 might be another matter.

Of course, there’s one other AA and AAA catcher we all need to look at, and that’s Tyler Heineman. Heineman put up a .285/.334/.379 slash with just three homers and a — get this! — a 7.6 percent K-rate.

No power, but good plate discipline. (Though his walk rate isn’t exceptional.)

And that’s it in the high minors. Roberto Pena had a .572 OPS in Corpus.


1. So Luhnow is definitely sending a message with that $250,000, but what are his options? Max Stassi? Tyler Heineman?

2. How much are we all regretting sending Jacob Nottingham to Oakland?

3. Is Luhnow making a mistake? Should Houston maybe try to lock up Castro for three or four years since there isn’t a huge prospect ready and waiting?



35 comments on “The $250,000 message to Jason Castro

  1. 1. Yes, the message is low and clear. 2 & 3. Obviously, the FO thinks they have been options for the future. And don’t forget that for some reason, the FO decided to protect Alfredo Gonzalez and leave Heineman out there for the Rule V draft.


    • That was a terrific read – I love it when they humanize the players and this gave you a look at a number of different players through their interaction with Trent Woodward.
      I will say I feel really old – because the picture in the article looks like something from the Little League World Series – gosh these kids are kids….


  2. Perhaps the Astros wanted Castro to work on his batting this winter.
    Perhaps he didn’t
    Perhaps they wanted to talk about an extension.
    Perhaps he didn’t.
    Perhaps he wanted to keep Conger and they didn’t.
    When is the last time you saw Castro jovial? Perhaps he isn’t happy here. He never struck me as a big pickup truck kind of guy.
    Any number of things could factor into this situation. Maybe he wants to test the market.
    Maybe he’s upset because two years ago he was the toast of the town and now he’s another .200 hitting catcher.
    It’s pretty obvious the Astros don’t have him valued at $5million a year to them or they wouldn’t be toeing the line over another $250,000.
    Castro’s offensive WAR is at ocean floor level and apparently the Astros don’t see that improving in Houston.
    It’s very odd that Castro’s two worst years at the plate have been when Houston started getting better, and when he had no trouble with his knees at all. The strikeout rate is alarming for a guy who was an All-Star caliber catcher three years ago.
    Alfredo Gonzalez was added to the 40-man because he had to be. He would automatically have been a free agent if he hadn’t, because of his length of service in the minors, if I am not mistaken. He was signed at age 16 in 2009. He has seven full years in the minors.


    • 1OP,
      Perhaps Luhnow and advisors saw what the MLB suggestions for what Castros’s new salary should be that was less than 5mil, but wanted to award him the 5mil because of their loyalty for his history here and his relationship with the pitching staff here and his decent defense. Plus, he’s a Stanford guy like the manager and Luhnow likes smart people.

      Perhaps Luhnow took offense to this rebuff of what he thought was an above board offer.

      Perhaps Luhnow is now looking much harder at Castro and his value to the team. I mean, just how much of a dropoff will it be to Stassi and Heineman?

      By the way, the Astros drafted 2 catchers within the top ten draft picks in the last draft. I wonder where they will be placed in this start of the season.


      • The two sides are so close, moneywise, that I expect Castro to be on the squad in April. Come July, the club will look at where they are in the standings, look at how Stassi is doing in Houston, how Heineman is doing in Fresno, how Gonzalez and Pena are doing wherever they are, and how Castro is performing. If he’s doing like he did the last two years and the team is in first place, I would expect them to keep him the rest of the year and then let him go in free agency.
        If he rebounds and has a good walk year they might consider trading him at the deadline for someone they love, if Heineman is performing well, or give him a QO after the World Series and let him decide.
        Personally, I would rather have a young catcher with a great arm hitting last in the order at $513,000 a year than Castro hitting last in the order at $5mill.
        Since there are only about 4 good catchers who can also hit in the majors, I would rather let one of our catchers move up. I’m probably in the minority here.
        I would be the most surprised fan in all of Astro World if Castro and the Astros agreed to an extension. I think Castro is here because he has to be, not because he wants to be.
        Maybe I’m wrong, but I read body language and Castro has a ton of it.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. A. We are nearly bare at the catching position….Stassi and who?
    B. Yes Castro has had a couple of bad years at the plate, but look around and show me the guys who haven’t (Correa not included).
    C. Either sign him to a two-three yr deal, or trade him at the break. Letting him walk next year, without getting SOMETHING for him makes no sense. Oh and by the way there will more than a few teams lining up to take him “off our hands”.
    D. What this hearing tells Castro, and us is…”we’re just not into you”….no hard feelings ok?
    E. Are we fans regretting that Noting ham is now a part of the A’S organization?
    Do you really need to ask that question?


    • But what Castro had wasn’t really two bad years, it was two monumentally bad years that would have him out of the league if he played any other position…. Do you really want a starting catcher that is not at least a facsimile of a league average hitter?


  4. Sounds too much like a political argument where we all suppose our opinions are the actual facts. I have no idea why they are sitting just 250,000 apart, and I don’t care.

    How they deal with the catching situation was not trade Perez and Nottingham to begin with. But they did. I suspect the next catcher for Houston is going to come from outside the organization.

    I don’t know that Heineman has a lot of plate discipline, but he is increasingly difficult strike out. Those are two different things. He is probably the best in house candidate, but I’m not 100% sold on the guy. Stassi just scares me. I could easily see him at 34-35% K rate, but if he can keep it below 30% he should have enough power to be as passable offensively as Castro has been. In end I would like to find a catcher that is good defensively, doesn’t K at 25% plus, can hit .250+ and anything after that is bacon. Could be Heineman


    • there is also a short video of one of his triples, two things you notice, one he legs it out pretty well and doesn’t give out halfway around second, two kinsler either has not much of an arm left or something caused him to have a weak bouncing throw on the relay.


  5. its hard to read this 250k thing in a way that doesn’t end up with the explanation being along the lines of the astros kinda shooting castro the finger. i hope he has a great first half and is traded for someone we need at the deadline. on brian’s questions:
    1. i think the options are play castro this year, and hopefully trade at the deadline, with stassi and/or heinemann ready for the second half. and surprise surprise maybe a game or two here and there of gattis catching.
    2. well in hindsight, a lot
    3. you know the club always has so much more information with which to formulate their opinions than we do, that i tend to give them the benefit of the doubt. they must feel one more year of castro (or half year) is enough for one of the young guys to be ready to step up. maybe if he hadn’t been hit in the face (a hard thing to get over physically and more so mentally) stassi would already be ready. i have a sneaky suspicion that maybe negotiations on an extension had a hand in this 250k thing. one side or the other is stubborn and/or pissed off over something. so to answer the question i will give luhnow the benefit of the doubt and say no it isn’t a mistake to not sign him beyond this year. I’m with op in that i prefer stassi at 500k over castro at 5 million. maybe though, not full time till the trade deadline.


    • Be careful what you wish for. There are NO guarantees with Stassi, or Heineman but Castro has the respect of the entire pitching staff. I call bull cr*p on Luhnow toying with him for pennies. Sorry fellas…..we will just have to agree to disagree on this one.


  6. I feel there is something going on which we just don’t know about. 250K is chump change to the players and owners. I’d like to have the 250K but I probably couldn’t throw the ball past the pitcher’s mound and my K rate would probably be 99.9%. I like others are disappointed in Castro’s last two years at the plate but he handles the staff pretty well, at least from my vantage point. Maybe we’ll get more info on this after arbitration but it sure has a funny smell to it.


    • I’m not sure about this. A.J. Reed was a 2nd round pick and Maverick was a 6th round pick. Kemmer was a 21st round pick and Tyler White was a 33rd pick. The Astros, since Luhnow took over as G.M., have a good track record in the draft. I wouldn’t discount the value of that sandwich pick. Now, if we still had Ed Wade as the G.M. then I would agree with you. 🙂


  7. 1. No. If it were a message the offer would have been about $500k lower.
    2. I’m not at this time. A+ is a long way from the majors.
    3. No. Castro has to earn it. He’s not Andrelton Simmons with a catchers mask.

    One other thought – I think people are overvaluing the sandwich pick for losing a free agent. McCullers and Cameron were special cases where our immense draft pools and under slot savings allowed us to pick guys that few teams can afford. Generally, you are getting guys like Andres Thurman or Thomas Eshelman in those slots that likely never give much WAR to the big league club. If Castro can help us reach the playoffs again, I would let him play it out knowing we would not extend the QO.


  8. There were 21 batters on the Astros last year who had more than 10 plate appearances. Of those 21 players, Castro was #18 in wRC+. His wRC+ was 76, with 100 being the average for the league. The three lower players were Hoes, Presley and Grossman, who are all gone. Castro is now the worst hitter on the team, not counting pitchers. And $5million isn’t enough money for the worst hitter on the team.


  9. I’m with you OP, except, and it’s a big except. We’ve got a team now that we all expect to go deep into October. And a seasoned catcher typically plays a big role in that journey. The guys on the hill like having a Castro to throw to. And we know that Keuchel appreciates his presence. Do we get a bit arrogant (seems that way to me ) and dig in over small change, or do we get the guy signed, take the high road in relationship building, or at least keeping a relationship intact, and get ready for the season? I’d rather pay the 250K than risk having a disgruntled catcher when we have no other proven backstops to do the job.


  10. Maybe they think it will motivate him. Maybe they want him to prove he is worth the money. Maybe they are just arrogant Sons of guns who think their number is it.
    It just seems a strange place to draw a line in the sand.


    • What he said: ““It’s a little bit different this time with a good chance to break with the club. I’m really excited just to get down there to start getting better relationships with all my pitchers. I’ve caught a few of them and just want to really know the ins and outs about them, what they like to do, what’s their routines, just little things that any way I can help them out and get to know them on a personal level.”

      What he meant: “Corporan gone, Conger gone, Castro has one foot out the door. Jesus people, when does a guy get a chance to play around here?”

      Liked by 2 people

  11. What’s Danny ‘worth’ these days? Guess we’ll find out soon….although he doesn’t seem to have much offensive ability at all.


      • BC, I thought about replying “Danny’s Worth” is he can take those 3 hour bus rides to Split Squad games in Spring Training allowing Altuve and Correa to take the day off. But I decided not to do that because I knew that was too obtuse. Then I thought “Danny’s Worth” is he can now play infield for Fresno insuring Sclafani stays on the bench. But that is also too over 90 degrees but less than 180.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. to paraphrase slim pickens in dr. strangelove “Well, I’ve been to one world fair, a picnic, a rodeo, and two goat ropings but i aint never seen this before”.
    i was looking for some snacks at the grocery store and i looked up and saw a bag of chips i had never seen before. the bag boasted ‘made in the heart of texas’ ‘texan original made in san antonio’. the bag also said ‘michelada flavored tortilla chips’. what was the name of the chips you ask? Chipelada!!! i kid you not. they are ok chips kinda lime flavor with just little heat to them.

    Liked by 4 people

  13. Two things tonight…
    1. Bregman was 7th on the list for best short stops on the top 100 prospects.
    2. The reason Gattis has lost some of the weight, he’s getting married and they were taking engagement pictures. BUT…I don’t care why he lost some pounds, he needed to come to spring training fit and ready to play……besides, Luhnow is making noise about him doing some catching this year.
    The Astros have 5 players on the top 100.


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