Astros get Conger from Angels for Perez, Tropeano
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Astros added to their depth at catcher on Wednesday by acquiring switch-hitter Hank Conger from the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for right-hander Nick Tropeano and Minor League catcher Carlos Perez.
Conger, 26, has played in 251 games with the Angels in the past five years in a backup role and will serve in a similar capacity behind Jason Castro, who's firmly implanted as the Astros' starter. Conger is a career .224 hitter who last season batted .221 with four homers and 25 RBIs in 80 games.
"He's a good catcher, a switch-hitter who can hit, a good receiver," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "We really felt catching is in short supply, and to be able to acquire a catcher like him gives us a lot of options going forward. We're pretty excited to have him."
Conger was taken by the Angels with the 25th overall selection in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft and established himself as a backup and occasional platoon option with Chris Iannetta the last two seasons, hitting .235 in 172 games from 2013-14. Conger is arbitration-eligible for the first time.
"We played [the Astros] a lot of times, and they're a big team on the rise," Conger said. "They have a lot of prospects in motion. To hear that they wanted me is very flattering, so I'm excited to just try to come to a team, try to get settled in, try to get comfortable and just start getting to work. Going into next season, my main goal is to win with the Astros."
Considering it's unlikely the Astros would carry three catchers, the move likely means Carlos Corporan, who has served as Castro's backup the last few years, and Max Stassi could be moved.
"We now have a surplus of Major League-caliber catching and we're going to have to figure out how to deal with that surplus, but it's a good position to be in for us going into the heart of the offseason," Luhnow said.
Conger has developed behind the plate. He's not considered someone who's going to shut down a running game, but he's one of the best pitch-framers in baseball. Astros manager A.J. Hinch, a former catcher, says Conger will help the pitching staff.
"The best catchers really take it personally, interacting and working with pitchers on the staff," Hinch said. "What they do behind the plate is always going to impact the game at a higher level than the bat. I know Castro and Corporan have that, and talking to Conger, he has that mentality, that selfless side of being a catcher that can really elevate what a pitching staff brings to the table."
Conger says he's improved defensively lately.
"I feel like I made huge strides in my game," he said. "I went from a point where, when I got called up, a lot of people were questioning my defense and were like, 'Well, maybe he'll be a hitter-first type guy,' to where I feel like [I'm now] very comfortable behind the plate, and I feel like I did a good job of controlling a pitching staff."
Perez, 24, spent the 2014 season at Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he hit .259 with 16 doubles, six homers and 34 RBIs in 88 games with the RedHawks. Tropeano, 24, made his Major League debut with Houston this season, starting four games for the Astros in September. A fifth-round pick in the 2011 Draft, Tropeano went 9-5 with a 3.03 ERA in 23 games (20 starts) at Triple-A in 2014.
"Obviously, it caught me off guard, just being so surprising, my first time, but I'm absolutely excited for the new opportunity, and I'm just privileged and honored that the Angels would trade for me and give me this opportunity to show my talent," Tropeano said.
Luhnow said the Astros' starting-pitching depth, though most of it is unproven, made it possible to move Tropeano. Dallas Keuchel, Scott Feldman and Collin McHugh are the current 1-2-3, and lefty Brett Oberholtzer has shown promise as well.
Beyond that, the Astros could start the season without starter Brad Peacock, who had hip surgery last month, but they have rotation options in Alex White, Michael Foltynewicz, Asher Wojciechowski and Jake Buchanan, among others.
"It's hard to give up a guy who's young and just got to the big leagues and who you developed through your own system," Luhnow said. "He's got a lot of potential and he's a guy the Angels really wanted in this deal. While it's hard to give up young pitching, it's a deal we felt we needed to make.
"I'm sure Nick will have some success in Los Angeles. We've made a lot of trades in the last few years to bring guys in like Wojo and Alex White and others. We've also drafted well. We've got some pretty good depth with pitchers from the Majors all the way down to high [Class] A. We feel like we can do a deal like this, which is a luxury for a general manager."