The Astros will keep one of baseball's most experienced catching tandems together for least one more season after announcing Wednesday the signing of Martín Maldonado to a one-year extension through 2022. The deal is worth $5 million with a $5 million vesting option for 2023, according to a source.
Maldonado, 34, said the extension talks began in the spring and cooled off before the start of the season, which he said contributed to him striking out 17 times in his first 37 plate appearances.
“I was going through a lot of stuff in my mind,” Maldonado said. “I was talking about the deal, thinking about the deal, striking out way too much. It’s something I don’t recommend to nobody, when you start talking about an extension in the middle of the season. We finally did it, and now I can sleep better. I wasn’t sleeping good before that.”
After trading for Maldonado in July of both 2018 and '19, the Astros signed him to a two-year deal prior to the '20 season, and he started 46 of 60 games during last year's abbreviated season. Jason Castro, who began his career with Houston, was brought back on a two-year contract prior to this year, so both will be under contract in '22. They are one of two active catching tandems with each having at least 400 career games caught (Alex Avila and Yan Gomes of the Nats are the other).
“It’s a place I like, I feel really comfortable with the players that we have and with the staff and the analytics,” Maldonado said. “They just give me an opportunity to go out there and do my best every day, and that’s the most important thing for me as a player. After they traded for me back-to-back years, I was lucky enough to get that deal last year, and I really enjoyed being a part of the Houston Astros.”
Emanuel could join Astros soon
With left-handed reliever Blake Taylor on the injured list with a sprained right ankle, the Astros could turn to left-hander Kent Emanuel in the coming days. Houston manager Dusty Baker said Wednesday that the 28-year-old Emanuel, who has never pitched in the big leagues, could be an option for his depleted bullpen. Emanuel is on the 40-man roster.
Drafted in the third round out of the University of North Carolina in 2013, Emanuel will be available to be activated on Friday, when an 80-game suspension handed down last August is over. Emanuel tested positive for dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, a performance-enhancing substance, in violation of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Emanuel has vehemently denied “knowingly or intentionally” taking the substance.
Emanuel spent the 2019 season at Triple-A Round Rock and was 8-2 with career lows in ERA (3.90) and WHIP (1.19). He came to Spring Training in '20 with an outside shot to win a spot in Houston’s bullpen, but he battled a left elbow injury. He wasn’t in the team’s 60-man player pool last year.
Baker admitted the bullpen is overworked but said injured reliever Andre Scrubb (right shoulder soreness) could join the team next week. Right-hander Enoli Paredes (right side soreness) is also throwing and could return soon. Taylor and veteran Pedro Báez, who signed a two-year deal before the season but came down with COVID-19, aren’t close.
“We got reinforcements coming,” Baker said. “We’ve just got to hold on ‘til then.”
Straw dealing with vaccine side effects
Center fielder Myles Straw was out of the starting lineup for Wednesday’s series finale against the Rockies at Coors Field because of side effects from the second COVID-19 vaccine, Baker said. The Astros weren’t sure that Straw, who went 0-for-4 on Tuesday, was going to be able to come to the ballpark, so Chas McCormick started in center.
“We’re giving up something in center field, but I wanted to give [Straw] a mental break,” Baker said. “Also, we didn’t know if Straw was going to be able to play [Wednesday] because he was feeling sick from the shot. … These guys want to play. This ain’t hero time yet.”
Some Astros players, coaches and staff members received their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday -- three weeks after the club held a team-wide vaccination event at Minute Maid Park on the way back from Spring Training. Straw, who took over for George Springer in center field, has a .462 OPS in 61 plate appearances.