The Astros have interest in a reunion with catcher Martin Maldonado, but they’re not alone in showing interest. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported last month that four or five clubs had shown interest in the 37-year-old, and Chandler Rome of The Athletic reports today that in addition to the Astros, Maldonado has received some level of interest from the Padres, Marlins and White Sox.
All three clubs are in need of some catching help, to varying extents. The Padres received a breakout performance from former top prospect Luis Campusano in 2023, as the 25-year-old turned in a stout .319/.356/.491 batting line in 174 plate appearances. That showing likely puts him atop the team’s depth chart, particularly following the Friars’ decision to non-tender veteran backstop Austin Nola, who’d been their primary catcher since his acquisition in 2020. Maldonado would represent a backup option — one whose acumen in terms of game-calling and game-planning would be particularly beneficial in a mentorship role for a young catcher like Campusano.
The ChiSox have a young catcher of their own, one who’s quite familiar with Maldonado: former Astros first-round pick Korey Lee. Chicago acquired Lee from Houston in the deadline trade sending Kendall Graveman back to Houston. Lee’s initial stint with the Sox went poorly, as he hit just .077/.143/.138 — albeit in a tiny sample of 70 plate appearances. Lee hit .278/.325/.386 in 82 contests at the Triple-A level last year, and the Sox will hope for something closer to that level of output in the Majors this season.
The Sox are also hoping for continued development from prospect Edgar Quero, acquired from the Angels in the Lucas Giolito/Reynaldo Lopez trade. Quero is just 20 years old and not yet on the 40-man roster, but he hit .255/.380/.351 in 101 games against far older competition at the Double-A level last year. He could be up in the big leagues at some point in 2024 or 2025. And even if his big league debut doesn’t come next season, he’d surely be in spring training with the Sox, where Maldonado could take both Quero and Lee under his wing.
Things are far more open in Miami, where the only catcher on the 40-man roster is defensive standout Nick Fortes. The Marlins non-tendered Jacob Stallings in November, and newly installed president of baseball operations Peter Bendix has already made clear that he could add multiple catchers this offseason. A pairing of Fortes and Maldonado wouldn’t do much for the Marlins offensively; Fortes hit just .204/.263/.299 last year, but he also has minor league options remaining. If the Fish were to add both Maldonado and another more seasoned catcher with superior offensive capabilities, they could option Fortes and relegate him to No. 3 on the organization’s catching depth chart.
Of course, it remains eminently possible — if not likely — that Maldonado stays put in Houston. The Astros organization has routinely extolled the veteran backstop’s intangible value to the team’s pitching staff, even as his framing grades and throwing numbers have deteriorated. The ’Stros love Maldonado’s work with their pitchers, his ability to help plan for games, and his actual game-calling skills. He still rates as an above-average catcher in terms of blocking pitches in the dirt, as well. Houston has already gone out of its way to anoint young Yainer Diaz as the primary catcher in 2024, but Maldonado could occupy a similar mentor role to the highly touted Diaz that he could offer any of his other suitors and their young catchers.
In parts of six seasons with Houston, Maldonado carries just a .191/.273/.350 batting line. That lack of offensive production makes a backup role seem likely wherever he eventually lands but also speaks to the extent to which the Astros have valued him. He’s received nearly 1600 plate appearances and twice re-signed in Houston despite that dearth of offensive output, which only underscores how much Houston loves his work with their staff.