The Astros have been linked to Josh Bell just a few instances in current days, however the Nationals first baseman isn’t the one rental bat on Houston’s radar. Jeff Passan of ESPN reviews that the Astros have been involved with the Cubs about catcher Willson Contreras.
Extra broadly, Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic wrote this morning that Houston is trying into methods so as to add to the catching corps earlier than subsequent Tuesday’s commerce deadline. The Astros have been with out veteran backup Jason Castro for almost a month, and supervisor Dusty Baker indicated over the weekend that Castro wasn’t progressing as hoped (via team field reporter Julia Morales). That has left the membership counting on rookie Korey Lee to again up Martín Maldonado. Lee is among the higher prospects within the Houston farm system, however he’s struggled this yr in his first prolonged crack at Triple-A.
After all, there are myriad methods through which the Houston entrance workplace might handle the catching group. In the event that they’re dedicated to conserving Maldonado as the first backstop, then a veteran depth possibility within the Tucker Barnhart mildew might suffice. The Tigers would definitely be open to transferring the approaching free agent for a minimal prospect return.
Contreras, then again, would require sending important expertise again to Chicago. He’s a digital lock to alter uniforms inside the subsequent week. As a result of MLB and the Gamers Affiliation didn’t agree to a global draft, the qualifying provide system at no cost brokers is ready to stay in place. The Cubs might theoretically maintain Contreras and recoup a draft decide as soon as he indicators elsewhere subsequent winter, however they’re far likelier to land a extra helpful return by way of commerce.
Maldonado, who has began 70 of Houston’s 97 video games behind the plate, is beloved within the clubhouse for his administration of the pitching workers. He’s by no means been a great hitter, although, and his .237 on-base proportion is the fifth-lowest mark amongst 260 hitters with 200+ plate appearances on the season. Maldonado has additionally rated as a below-average pitch framer and general defender within the eyes of public metrics this season. The Astros clearly consider he brings immense intangible worth, however there’s room on paper for an improve.
After all, if the Astros wish to preserve Maldonado behind the plate, they might make room for Contreras’ bat at different positions. The Cubs backstop has lengthy been thought to be a bat-first catcher. He’s made strides from a pitch framing perspective in current seasons, bettering from one of many league’s worst-rated framers to roughly common in that regard. Passan notes, nonetheless, that some contenders have expressed concern about Contreras’ capability to handle a brand new pitching workers shortly — not an unusual chorus for catchers who’re dealt midseason. Contreras is gifted sufficient a hitter than an buying workforce might plug him in additional incessantly at first base and/or designated hitter than at catcher for the season’s closing few months whereas nonetheless upgrading their offense.
Houston has Yordan Álvarez at DH, though he’s seen sporadic time in left area as properly. The clearer path for an offensive improve is at first base, the place Yuli Gurriel has a disappointing .234/.287/.384 season line. Bell can be a extra apparent direct substitute for Gurriel, nevertheless it’s not out of the query groups might eye Contreras — proprietor of a career-best .258/.373/.470 slash — as an choice to rotate between DH, first base and catcher somewhat than as a full-time backstop.
The Astros aren’t the one workforce involved with the Cubs about Contreras, after all. The Mets have been tied to him for just a few weeks, and each Passan and Pat Ragazzo of Sports Illustrated counsel at the moment he stays a viable goal for New York. Ragazzo reviews that New York and the Cubs have mentioned commerce frameworks involving Contreras and Cubs nearer David Robertson in a bundle deal that might ship a number of prospects again to Chicago. Ragazzo provides that Francisco Álvarez and Brett Baty — the highest two prospects within the system in Baseball America’s most recent Prime 100 — can be off the desk. The one different Mets farmhand to make BA’s prime 100 is outfielder Alex Ramirez, however gamers like Matt Allan, Ronny Mauricio and Mark Vientos have been within the current Prime 100 combine for varied prospect retailers.