Just this week, a story on this website
said that the Astros, despite their continued success, have a few holes to fill before the postseason. The two areas mentioned were infield depth and bullpen help. A very close third was catcher, but with Brian McCann not too far off from returning from surgery and Max Stassi filling in admirably, it didn't make the list.
On Thursday, the Astros demonstrated it was indeed a key by adding catcher Martin Maldonado from the Angels for High A ball lefty pitcher Patrick Sandoval and cash. It may not be a splashy move like adding Orioles closer Zach Britton, who wound up with the Yankees earlier this week, but it does address an issue the Astros have had for some time.
Last season, with catchers Evan Gattis and McCann, the Astros had a pair of beefy signal callers who could mash the baseball. Moving Gattis to DH in the offseason and promoting Stassi seemed to continue that tradition of offense over defense behind the dish. In fact, that Astros haven't had a great defensive catcher in a while, but that will change with Maldonado.
No one is going to pop champagne corks for Maldonado's offense. His slash line of .223/.284/.332 is, to quote Mad Men
, "not great, Bob!" But, he is one of the best defensive catchers in baseball, winner of the Gold Glove in 2017. He has a .444 caught stealing average, best in the majors, and ranks fifth among all players in fielding percentage at .994.
Those type of numbers have not been a priority for the team, but don't underestimate their importance. The threat of a catcher who can throw out anyone on the base paths has got to bring some relief for pitchers who often must concede second base to a guy who just got a single.
It's a low-risk, high-reward move for the 'Stros. The 31-year-old Maldonado is a free agent at the end of the season. He gives the Astros a very good backup behind the plate and an outstanding late-inning defensive replacement. It's not a big name reliever (no doubt the Astros are still fishing for someone to fill that bill), but it is a critical component of what could be another championship roster.