Yesterday, Ken Rosenthal included a blurb about the Astros in this article:
The Astros are at their payroll limit, but would like to add a left-handed hitting outfielder to platoon with Jason Michaels if they go with Carlos Lee over Brett Wallace at first base, which is hardly a sure thing. Wallace is hitting .362/.388/.617 this spring.
The team’s greater need is a replacement for catcher Jason Castro, who is out for the season due to a torn ACL in his right knee. The Astros like the Royals’ Brayan Pena, but the Royals won’t trade him with Jason Kendall still recovering from shoulder surgery.
I know I’ve been something of a J.R. Towles fanboy, and I understand that the team might be reluctant to give him another shot to translate his skills to the Major League level, but if going .344/.382/.594 in Spring Training, with more at-bats than any other player at your position, doesn’t earn you a chance to be the starting catcher, then I don’t know why we even have Spring Training. Of course, I understand that Humberto Quintero and Chris Corporan have posted comparable, and at times better, numbers. But Towles’ minor league production backs up his spring numbers, and I just happen to think he’s due one last chance to either be the starting catcher or to be traded or released.
As for the speculation about Carlos Lee, I think Brett Wallace has to be installed as the everyday first baseman to start the season. You have to believe that he’s going to find his power stroke at the major league level, and the thought of platooning Jason Michaels with any other options isn’t promising. Brian Bogusevic, the obvious in-choice left-handed outfielder, isn’t performing well this spring and needs to swing the bat a few more times in Oklahoma City before he should be called up. That means going out and getting a free agent, which more or less is limited to Ryan Church, as every other option with big league experience is right-handed, to my knowledge.
So, really, it just makes much more sense to me to put Lee and his diminished defense in left field, with Wallace and his potential big bat at first; rather than Lee at first and a combination of Jason Michaels and any other human being in left field.
It seems like an annual Astros’ Spring Training rite: Determining who the starting catcher will be. This year, and for the foreseeable future, you can blame Ed Wade and the gang for assuming that they’d locked the question up. Jason Castro was going to be given the reins of the team. That much, then, was settled.
Until it wasn’t.
Castro’s season came to a screeching halt when he tore the ACL in his right knee, leaving the Astros once again fielding the question: Who will start at catcher?
Defensive stalwart Humberto Quintero is an option, if not a great one on the offensive side of the plate; former top prospect J.R. Towles is also lingering around, after a few unsuccessful major league stints.
There are a few options that may be available via trade, but in my opinion, a rebuilding team like the Astros would be foolish to give away any piece of merit for what amounts to being – at best – a one-year stopgap behind the plate.
Then there’s Bengie Molina.
Molina, a thirteen-year veteran with the Angels, Blue Jays, Giants, and Rangers, is leaning towards retirement, but has said that he would be open to signing with a team where he could get full-time employment.
He would certainly become the number one option behind the plate, probably with Quintero filling in from the bench. He would no doubt be available at a reasonable price, similar to the Ivan Rodriguez deal.
Though last year was not a good one for Molina, it was the first time since 2003 that he slugged below .400. The last time the Astros had a catcher with over 150 plate appearances who slugged .400 or better, the year was 2001 and the catcher’s name was Tony Eusebio. Molina also brings a veteran presence to a team that seems to get younger by the minute.