Apparently Jason Castro is no first baseman. Apparently the Astros have considered the move. And nixed the move.
Nearly two years ago, Houston said it would not move him there. “For now.” Well, despite a well-documented search for a first baseman and a slew of journeymen, prospects, also-rans, and first basemen wannabes, Castro is still the Astros’ starting catcher. And Houston still searches for the prodigious replacement for Lance Berkman.
In fact, barring an injury or unforseen acquisition, Castro will be making his fifth consecutive opening day start behind the plate next month. Only Brad Ausmus (six) has had more.
Still, for an organization that hasn’t hesitated to move players from one position to another when necessary, it does beg the question of how deeply the Astros have considered the Castro move — if at all — and what other options behind the plate the team may have had. Though it may be those options or lack thereof that has prevented the move.
Of course, Jonathan Lucroy has been available for the better part of the off-season and Houston has apparently had some interest. Given the relationship of former Astros’ assistant and now-GM for Milwaukee David Stearns, it would seem obvious the discussions may have been deeper than a single phone call.
Lucroy behind the plate in an Astros’ uniform and Castro at first base might provide the Astros a bit of security in both spots, though Castro can obviously become a free agent at the end of 2016.
Despite his perceived shortcomings, Castro is still in the top half of catchers in the league, but his fragile nature may also be something of a consideration as he moves into his age-29 season. A move to first base could also increase his marketability if the Astros determined he could bring a return this season rather than let him walk in the offseason.
Meanwhile, Lucroy — who hits from the right side — is signed through 2017 at what is considered a team-friendly deal. He would give the Astros some stability until others are either healthy or move up in the system.
Of course, the big question in a potential Lucroy acquisition is what the Astros may have to give up. Lucroy is one year removed from All Star form when he hit .301 with 53 doubles. The UL-Lafayette product also fits more nicely into Jeff Luhnow’s previously stated OBP lineup than others might. Lucroy has a career .340 OBP and is typically also a low-K guy, which also would be a departure from current norms.
The Astros still have the players with which to deal, unless Stearns is holding out for a player like Lance McCullers Jr. or Collin McHugh. While a deal is still a possibility, the likelihood diminishes each day as teams don’t generally like to make those types of changes behind the plate this close to opening day.
For the record, Lucroy also played six games at 1B for Milwaukee last year and hit second most of the season. He would slot in nicely between Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa in Houston’s lineup as a solid bat handler. Or in the five hole behind Altuve, George Springer, Correa and Carlos Gomez.
So, for your Monday brain teaser:
- Is a Lucroy acquisition worth giving up a prospect or two?
- Would you trade Castro and a mid-prospect straight up for Lucroy?
- Should the Astros consider the move to first for Castro?
- If the Astros should acquire Lucroy, is it only a sign that Castro will be traded mid-season?
- Was Max Stassi ever really the “guy” to back up Castro?