HOUSTON -- Perhaps the Astros' biggest need this offseason will be catching, where veterans Brian McCann and Martin Maldonado are both free agents and Max Stassi was the only other backstop on the club's 40-man roster before it claimed Chris Herrmann off waivers from Seattle on Friday.The Astros will certainly
HOUSTON -- Perhaps the Astros' biggest need this offseason will be catching, where veterans Brian McCann and Martin Maldonado are both free agents and Max Stassi was the only other backstop on the club's 40-man roster before it claimed Chris Herrmann off waivers from Seattle on Friday.
The Astros will certainly have to bring in another veteran catcher this winter, especially considering they have an experienced pitching staff, anchored by Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, and they have a team poised to compete for another championship. The biggest name to watch is Miami's J.T. Realmuto, an All-Star who's likely to be traded to a contender. The Astros would be in the mix.
Stassi hit .226 with eight homers and 27 RBIs this year in his first full season in the big leagues, but lost playing time following the July acquisition of Maldonado. The Astros could take a stab at trying to re-sign Maldonado, a Gold Glove finalist with a terrific arm. He's a career .220 hitter, but the pitchers worked well with him and he seemed to fit in well in Houston.
Herrmann, 30, appeared in 36 games for Seattle in 2018, hitting .237 with four doubles, two triples, two home runs and seven RBIs. His walk-off homer on Sept. 25 against the A's clinched the American League West title for the Astros.
Herrmann has played in parts of seven seasons in the Major Leagues with the Twins (2012-15), D-backs (2016-17) and Mariners (2018). In addition to catching, Herrmann has also appeared in 10 games at first base and in 85 games in the outfield in his Major League career.
The Astros only have one catcher among their top 30 prospects according to MLB Pipeline, and that's Garrett Stubbs (No. 15), an undersized left-handed hitter. He hit .310 with four homers and 38 RBIs last season at Triple-A Fresno.
Here are some catchers the Astros could pursue this offseason, including some from a decent free-agent market:
The 27-year-old (he'll turn 28 in March) will be a hot commodity this offseason considering his agent, Jeff Berry, told MLB Network Radio on Tuesday the catcher won't sign a long-term extension with the Marlins. That sets him up to be traded. Realmuto has two more years of club control, which would be ideal for Houston to add to its young core of position players.
Realmuto is arguably the top offensive catcher in the Majors, hitting .277 with a .340 on-base percentage, 21 homers and 74 RBIs in 125 games with the Marlins this year. He earned his first All-Star nod last season for Miami.
The rebuilding Royals could trade the veteran Perez, a six-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove Award winner who was the World Series Most Valuable Player in 2015. This would be a wildly popular move with the pitching staff and All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve, who grew up playing with Perez in Venezuela. They were born four days apart.
Perez also brings an offensive threat. Last season, he hit .235 with 27 homers and 80 RBIs and played through the final six weeks of the season with thumb ligament damage that eventually led to surgery. He should be ready for Spring Training, and if he's in an Astros uniform, it would be a game-changer.
The switch-hitting former All-Star hit .241 with 24 homers and 68 RBIs in 140 regular-season games last season with the Dodgers, though some high-profile defensive gaffes in the playoffs soured his season. Still, that shouldn't affect his market much, if at all. Adding the 29-year-old would be a solid move for the Astros that wouldn't break the bank.
The 31-year-old has a solid resume that includes a pair of All-Star nods and an AL Silver Slugger Award at catcher. He split time last year between the Rays and Phillies, hitting .306 with 15 homers and 70 RBIs in 111 games. He's a good hitter who could benefit from a move back to the AL.
Considered one of baseball's best overall catchers just a couple of years ago, Lucroy has slipped at the plate and behind the plate in recent years. He could be a solid addition on a one-year contract. Since being traded to the Rangers from the Brewers in 2016, he played for the Rockies and A's, who signed him to a one-year deal for '18. He hit .241 with four homers and 51 RBIs for Oakland and doesn't look anything close to the hitter who had an .855 OPS and 24 homers in his 2016 All-Star season.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow <ahref="http: twitter.com/brianmctaggart"="">@brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.</ahref="http:>