Jason Castro's 2011 season came to a quick end when the news broke that Castro had suffered a torn ACL in his right knee. The injury leaves the Astros with Humberto Quintero and J.R. Towles as their top internal options behind the plate, and it's possible that Houston is content to stick with this duo. Quintero is a solid defender, if nothing else, and Towles is just a couple of years removed from being considered a top prospect himself, so the Astros might be willing to give Towles one last chance to prove himself at the Major League level.
As with any notable injury, however, the hot stove is already heating up with speculation about who Houston could pursue if the team looked outside its organization. Brian McTaggart of MLB.com and David Golebiewski of Fangraphs have both already chimed in on the situation, so let's take a look at their possible candidates...
- Ryan Doumit. Pittsburgh is known to be shopping the veteran, and willing to eat some of his $5.1MM salary for the right talent in return. MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch, however, wonders if the Astros would really give up anything of value for just one year of Doumit.
- A.J. Ellis. He isn't exactly a proven veteran, but Ellis could be available. Ellis and Dioner Navarro are battling to be Rod Barajas' backup in Los Angeles.
- Jesus Flores. The Nationals could be the most fitting trade partner here, given the number of catchers on their roster. Flores has looked healthy in Spring Training and could probably be obtained at a low cost.
- Tyler Flowers. His future with the White Sox suddenly became blurry following a mediocre 2010 season in Triple-A and A.J. Pierzynski's new two-year contract with the club. Flowers is just 25, however, and was ranked by Baseball America as the 60th-best prospect in the game heading into last season. It's very unlikely that Chicago has already given up on Flowers.
- Bengie Molina. Unlike these other players, Molina is a free agent, and would cost Houston nothing but money. We heard last month that Molina was on the fence about returning next season since he couldn't find a team that would offer him regular playing time.
- Brian Schneider. McTaggart observes that Ed Wade and Ruben Amaro Jr. have collaborated before, most notably on the deal that sent Roy Oswalt to Philadelphia last summer. Schneider and Carlos Ruiz make a nice lefty-righty platoon, however, and it's unlikely the Philles would want to break that combination up.
- Kelly Shoppach. John Jaso is pencilled into the starting job in Tampa Bay, so the Rays could listen to offers for their veteran backup, who makes $3MM in 2011.
McTaggart also notes the Yankees' minor league depth at catcher, but says they're an unlikely trade partner since the Astros would be looking for a Major League-ready catcher. Besides, New York is dealing with their own injury problems behind the plate, as Francisco Cervelli will be sidelined with a broken foot.