The Houston Astros reportedly added some catching depth Monday with the 2016 season right around the corner.
According to Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle, the Astros traded right-handed pitcher Dan Straily to the San Diego Padres in exchange for catcher Erik Kratz. Ortiz noted Kratz will back up Jason Castro.
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune noted that “the exchange benefits both teams” because the Padres were likely going to lose Kratz, while the Astros were likely going to lose Straily. Straily is out of minor league options, and Kratz only signed a minor league deal in the offseason.
From Houston’s perspective, this was likely all about the insurance Kratz will provide behind the dish since Castro dealt with injuries in 2015 and played in only 104 games. When healthy, Castro adds pop to the lineup, with double-digit home runs in each of the last three seasons, but he has yet to appear in more than 126 games in a campaign.
Kratz has bounced around since his first MLB game in 2010. He has played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies, Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays throughout his professional tenure.
Kratz appeared in only 16 regular-season games in 2015 (four with Kansas City and 12 with Philadelphia) and hit .192 with zero home runs, three RBI and five strikeouts in 26 at-bats. In fact, the most he’s ever played was in 2013, when he appeared in 68 contests for the Phillies and hit .213 with nine home runs and 26 RBI.
To his credit, Kratz is responsible for six total defensive runs saved above average in 1,165 innings behind the plate in his career, per FanGraphs. If he serves as a solid defensive replacement for Castro on off days or as an injury fill-in, the Astros will likely be happy with their new acquisition.
As for the Padres, Lin pointed out their top three starters, Tyson Ross, James Shields and Andrew Cashner, could all be trade chips during the season. Straily gives them versatility as someone who has been a starter in his career, even though he is expected to open the season in the bullpen.
If the team deals one of those arms in 2016, Straily could step into the rotation.
Straily seems to have peaked in Oakland in 2013, when he finished fourth in American League Rookie of the Year voting, per Lin. Since then, he has struggled to maintain his form:
|2014||Oakland Athletics/Chicago Cubs||14||52||1-3||6.75||1.48||47||-1.0|
Perhaps a change of scenery could do him some good as he returns to the West Coast and serves as a versatile option for a Padres team that is not expected to contend—Jonah Keri of Sports Illustrated ranked it 27th in his power rankings entering spring training.
Both the Padres and Astros added more depth with the season approaching, so this could turn into a win-win trade over the course of the 2016 campaign.