HOUSTON -- The Astros' first trade of the season wasn't as impactful as some of the other contenders in the American League, but the club added some needed catching depth Thursday by acquiring Gold Glover Martin Maldonado from the Angels in exchange for Minor League lefty Patrick Sandoval and $250,000
HOUSTON -- The Astros' first trade of the season wasn't as impactful as some of the other contenders in the American League, but the club added some needed catching depth Thursday by acquiring Gold Glover Martin Maldonado from the Angels in exchange for Minor League lefty Patrick Sandoval and $250,000 in international bonus money.
The trade bolsters a position where the Astros were shorthanded following an injury to veteran Brian McCann, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee earlier this month and is expected to be out until September. The Astros designated catcher Tim Federowicz for assignment, leaving Max Stassi and Maldonado as the two catchers on the big league roster.
"We've always like Maldonado, even when he was over in Milwaukee, and we've kept our eye on him," president of baseball operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "He's a guy that is an elite defender in our evaluation, and looking at where we are and where we can improve this team and getting ready for potentially another long run in the postseason, having a shutdown catcher who can really receive and throw and has some pop seemed like a good addition for us."
Maldonado, 31, is an exceptional defensive catcher who has thrown out 44.4 percent of attempted basetealers this year (second in the Majors) and won the AL Gold Glove Award last year. According to Statcast™, the 87.6 mph average velocity of his throws is the best among AL catchers (and second in the Majors).
As a hitter, the right-hander is batting .223/.284/.332 with five home runs, 32 RBIs and 14 doubles in 78 games. He's making $3.9 million this year and will be a free agent at season's end.
"You're going to a team that's leading the division, but also, playing against those guys, it's a team that never gives up," Maldonado said. "They compete from first pitch to the 27th out, so I think that's something I'm looking forward to. To learn more as soon as I get there and try to know those pitchers, those guys, and try to help them."
Luhnow still expects McCann to return later this year and be a part of the team in the playoffs. He said the Astros could carry three catchers into October.
"This is not a statement on our confidence in McCann coming back or being able to contribute," he said. "We expect him back and expect him to contribute. It's really about the fact we are able to consider carrying three catchers in the postseason, and we like the trio of Stassi, Maldonado and McCann. It would be an incredibly powerful group of catchers and give [manager] AJ [Hinch] a lot of weapons to use based on who we're facing."
The Halos selected Maldonado in the 27th round of the 2004 Draft and signed him shortly after. He was released by Los Angeles in '07 and signed as a free agent with the Brewers, debuting for them in '11. Following six seasons with Milwaukee, the Angels reacquired Maldonado as part of a three-player trade in December 2016.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.