Astros Exploring Catching Market, Have Discussed Willson Contreras With Cubs

Astros Exploring Catching Market, Have Discussed Willson Contreras With Cubs

The Astros have been linked to josh bell several times in recent days, but the Nationals first baseman isn’t the only rental bat on Houston’s radar. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that the Astros have been in contact with the Cubs about the catcher. Willson Contreras.

More generally, the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal wrote this morning that Houston is looking for ways to bulk up the receiving corps before next Tuesday’s trade deadline. The Astros have been without veteran backup Jason Castro for almost a month, and manager Dusty Baker indicated over the weekend that Castro was not progressing as expected (via Team Field Reporter Julia Morales). That has left the club trusting the rookie. korey lee make backup copies Martin Maldonado. Lee is one of the top prospects in the Houston farm system, but he has struggled this year in his first extended opportunity at Triple-A.

Of course, there are myriad ways the Houston home office could target the receiving group. If they’re committed to keeping Maldonado as the primary backup, then a veteran depth option in the tucker barnhart mold might be enough. The Tigers would no doubt be open to moving the impending free agent for a minimal prospect return.

Contreras, on the other hand, would require sending significant talent back to Chicago. It’s a virtual lock to change uniforms within the next week. Because MLB and the Players Association did not agree to an international draft, the free agent qualifying offer system will remain in place. In theory, the Cubs could keep Contreras and get a draft pick back once he signs elsewhere next winter, but it’s far more likely that they’ll get a more valuable return through a trade.

Maldonado, who has started 70 of Houston’s 97 games behind the plate, is loved in the clubhouse for his handling of the pitching staff. However, he has never been a good hitter, and his .237 on-base percentage is the fifth-lowest mark among 260 hitters with 200-plus plate appearances on the season. Maldonado has also been rated as a below-average shooting framer and overall defender in the eyes of public metrics this season. The Astros clearly believe he brings immense intangible value, but there’s room on paper for improvement.

Of course, if the Astros want to keep Maldonado behind the plate, they could make room for Contreras’ bat at other positions. The Cubs’ backup has long been regarded as a leadoff catcher. He has come a long way from a shooting frame perspective in recent seasons, improving from one of the league’s lowest-rated framers to about average in that regard. Passan notes, however, that some contenders have raised concerns about Contreras’ ability to quickly handle a new pitching staff, something not uncommon for catchers who are traded midseason. Contreras is a talented enough hitter that an acquiring team could hit him more often at first base and/or as a DH than as a catcher during the later months of the season as he continues to improve his offense.

houston has Yordan Alvarez in DH, although he has also seen sporadic time in left field. The clearest path for offensive improvement is at first base, where yuli gurriel He has a disappointing .234/.287/.384 season line. Bell would be a more obvious direct replacement for Gurriel, but it’s not out of the question that teams could consider Contreras, who owns a career-best .258/.373/.470 cut, as an option to rotate between designated hitter, first baseman and catcher instead of as a full-time backup.

The Astros aren’t the only team in contact with the Cubs about Contreras, of course. The Mets have been linked to him for a few weeks now, and both Passan and Sports Illustrated’s Pat Ragazzo suggest today that he remains a viable target for New York. Ragazzo reports that New York and the Cubs have discussed trade frames involving Contreras and the Cubs closer. david robertson in a package that would send multiple prospects back to Chicago. Ragazzo adds that Francis Alvarez Y Brett Batty — the top two prospects in the system in Baseball America’s most recent Top 100 — would be off the table. The only other Mets farmer in the BA top 100 is an outfielder. Alex Ramirezbut the players like it matt allan, ronny mauritius Y Marcos Winds they have been in the recent Top 100 mix for various prospective outlets.

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