A possible cheap fix for the Braves’ catching ills – Jason Castro

Jason Castro watches a ball Big Papi just hit. (Michael Dwyer/AP photo)

Jason Castro watches what Big Papi just hit. (Michael Dwyer/AP photo)

Brian McCann was traded to the Astros on Thursday, which means he’s not returning to the Atlanta Braves anytime soon. This should come as no surprise. Their interest in McCann was always muted. If the Yankees wanted to pay half his salary and accept only second-tier prospects in return, the Braves might have taken him. That, however, was as far as they were willing to go.

Which also means the Braves are still without an everyday catcher. They like what Tyler Flowers gave them last season, but are under no illusion that he’s anything more than a good backup. They’d like to find somebody a bit better. This remains the hole in their remade organization: The Braves drafted Lucas Herbert in Round 2 last year; he just hit .185 at Class A Rome.

The free agent Wilson Ramos is coming off a career year, so his asking price is at an all-time high; he’s also coming off ACL surgery, which makes him a risk. Matt Wieters, also a free agent, is 31 and has never hit the way the Orioles figured when they made him the No. 5 pick in the 2007 draft. He made $15.8 million last season. He’s not apt to accept a major pay cut. MLB Trade Rumors projects that Wieters will sign for $39 million over three seasons. He’s not worth that.

The guess here — just a guess, mind you — is that the Braves will seek a cheaper option. That might lead them to Jason Castro, who’s 29 and who was the 10th pick of the 2008 draft. Not so long ago, he was seen as part of the Astros’ prized young core. Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa and George Springer have panned out. Castro made the All-Star team in 2013 but  has done little since, which is why Houston let him walk and dealt for McCann.

Castro isn’t much of a hitter. His OPS+ the past three seasons was 84, 79 and 88. (League average is 100.) His career batting average is .231. He career strikeout-to-walk ratio is 2.89. By way of contrast, that noted flailer Justin Upton’s is 2.44, and at least Upton will hit the more-than-occasional home run. Castro has 36 homers over the past three seasons.

Castro, who bats left-hander, is disproportionately lousy against lefties. His career BA/OBP/SLG against portsiders — sorry, but I just love typing “portsiders” — is .190/.249/.287.

Those are reasons not to sign Castro. Here are the counterpoints: He’d fit nicely into a platoon with Flowers, who hits right-handed, and — this above all — he’s a good defender. According to StatCorner, Castro ranked fifth among catchers in pitch-framing last season. If you’re looking to upgrade your team’s pitching performance, hiring a skilled pitch-framer is one way to do it. (A.J. Pierzynski is terrible at framing; Wieters isn’t much better.)

Another reason to pursue Castro: He’ll come cheaper than Ramos/Wieters. MLB Trade Rumors thinks he could be had for two years at $15 million overall. That mightn’t fill the Braves’ long-term need, but it would, at least in the here and now, address the incongruity of having no real catcher to handle a pitching staff comprised of young arms plus a couple of very old ones.

I know the Braves have had their eye on Castro for a while. (And when I say a while, I mean several months.) He’s not Johnny Bench. He’s not even McCann in his prime. But he’d be an affordable defensive upgrade.

Further reading: Russ Nixon, 1935-2016 — he managed the Braves at the wrong time.

Still further: Too much for two old pitchers? The Braves actually got a bargain.

Reader Comments 0

30 comments
TideDawg
TideDawg

The Astros got McCann.....the Braves got lucky they didn't get him. Don't need a worn out catcher to go with 2 worn out pitchers. The old guys can still pitch...but can they last? At best they are 5 inning pitchers.

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

@TideDawg  They might be old but were effective recently & they are one yr (maybe two max) until some of the kids are ready and step up.  Mc Cann is not the end of the world but the position needs upgrading & Castro makes sense

TideDawg
TideDawg

@FreeAgentFan @TideDawg Don''t know anything about Castro but I do know that 1 year older can make a big difference in performance for pitchers in their 40s. I know this personally, you have to work twice as hard to get in shape and stay in shape. It really gets to be a grind.

Coach Howard
Coach Howard

Worried that an automatic out in the 8th hole would lead to pitcher leading off an inning, by not pitching around Castro, not pitching to 7th hole batter to get to Castro, and ripple effect on offense as that plays out over two innings.  

gtlohmeier
gtlohmeier

According to Fangraphs, Jason Castro was the best defensive catcher in the AL in 2016. 


FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

@gtlohmeier  That works for me -- and he might be better offensively in a platoon.  I would give him 3 yrs till we can develop somebody

MichaelDavis1951
MichaelDavis1951

Compared to what we are looking at, I like going with Flowers and Recker.  I don't see any potential upside in any of the other catchers mentioned.  

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

@MichaelDavis1951  They were above their career norms last yr -- especially Recker who is a AAAA guy as I see it but he could do it again -- won't bet the rent money on it

58Supersports
58Supersports

Braves just got Tuffy Gisewisch, catcher off waivers from D_Backs.

TexanBrave
TexanBrave

The local feedback in Houston was alway that Jason had all the tools and major "upside" but would never "put in the work" that would get him there and would frustrate coaches regarding game prep regarding hitters tendencies, etc.  Maybe he's matured ...??

58Supersports
58Supersports

That would change in Atlanta are be gone...

ErnestB
ErnestB

It's good to hear that catching abilities is a key criteria being considered with catcher options.  We've invested a lot in young pitching and should want to ensure a good catcher is working with them.  Hitting will be a bonus.


That said, Castro looks like a good option.

davidg32
davidg32

As nice as it would have been to have McCann return to Atlanta, I'm glad he went to an American League club where he can DH.  He's still a pretty good hitter, and I'd like to see him have a couple of good years at the end of his career.  Good luck, Brian!

USMC2841
USMC2841

Starting to hear a lot of "we've got a lot of cap space" talk about next year but we keep signing 42 and 43 year old pitchers and settling for lesser catchers.  The Braves are starting to resemble the Marlins with a low payroll, lots of prospects and the talk of next year.

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

@58Supersports  Too bad he did not have more talent to work with -- even in his playing days for all the time he put in with Boston with the bad teams of the early to mid 60's -- he just missed being on that pennant winning 67 team.  He returned to the R-Sox to finish his career in 68.  Kind of a tough luck career

58Supersports
58Supersports

I'd just like to ask why we aren't looking at these young catchers that are blocked. I think the Indians would move one of theirs, the Rockies would for a good arm and Philly would. There are others too., but all we hear is these old worn out backups and over priced free  agents. Murphy would be my #1 pick...



Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@58Supersports Murphy may get his chance to start with the Rockies next year he is #2 on the depth chart behind Wolters now.

E983
E983

Just saying, but I would sign Ramos but Dusty won't let that happen. He's going back to DC. So Castro is the logical choice. He's a good choice behind the dish.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

A much more inexpensive choice would be Justin O'Conner from the Rays , A plus defender with a plus plus arm. More power potential than Castro and will be much less expensive (major league Minimum). O'Conner was just placed on the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.

Jacket Detective
Jacket Detective

I always wonder about those making comments whether they have any skin in the game as in season tickets.

I also wonder how season ticket holders are willing to buy so far before they know who will be on the team.

In the three John's, they trust, I guess.

I don't have that trust.

Especially after the last two years.

blahblahSomethingClever
blahblahSomethingClever

@Jacket Detective I can only truly speak for myself but season ticket holders typically are with the team through thick and thin times. I go to 15 to 20 games a year and haven't stopped going just because we're going through this "rebuild". 


Call me what you want, but I'm a baseball fan and I was born an Atlanta Braves fan. If you only support a team because "this is our year to win it all", then you're not a fan. 


Consider what the Chicago Cubs' fans had gone through for decade after decade. Honestly I don't know if I could have lasted that long as a Cub fan. 


If you're really a fan of a team, that team is in your blood. It's part of your family and part of your heritage. 


Anything less is a fair weather, fickle "fan". 

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

@Jacket Detective  The Johns can only do what Liberty Media lets them do -- till we have a different owner we will not be the big player for players we were 20 yrs ago.  Coppy has been a pretty shrewed operator but we have not yet seen the results yet

sportsnut
sportsnut

Let's see, the Braves are looking for someone 'cheap', someone with a low batting avg. not much power, seems to be right up the Braves alley, but I think he is under 30 years old, possibly.