The Astros announced the signing of free agent catcher Víctor Caratini to a two-year contract. It’s a reported $12MM guarantee for the ACES client.
Houston general manager Dana Brown has made clear the team was looking for a #2 catcher. The Astros are turning the starting job over to 25-year-old Yainer Diaz, who posted an impressive .282/.308/.538 line as a rookie. Diaz still worked in something of a timeshare with veteran Martín Maldonado in 2023 — the young player also took a fair number of reps at designated hitter — but the Astros declared Diaz their top catcher from the outset of the offseason.
Backing up a very talented young catcher is familiar territory for Caratini, who played that role with the Brewers in 2023. Working behind William Contreras, Caratini played in 62 games and tallied 226 plate appearances. The switch-hitter had spent the last two seasons with Milwaukee overall. The Brewers had acquired him from the Padres shortly before the 2022 campaign. Caratini slumped to a .199/.300/.342 line during his first year but rebounded with a solid .259/.327/.383 showing a season ago.
A first-time free agent, the Puerto Rico native turned 30 in August. As one of the youngest catchers in the class, it’s not a surprise that he secured a multi-year pact. While he doesn’t bring much power to the table, Caratini has solid bat-to-ball skills. He struck out in fewer than 20% of his plate appearances last season while making contact on over 80% of his swings (a few points above the 76.4% league average).
On the other side of the ball, Caratini’s best trait is his pitch framing. Statcast has credited him as better than average at securing strikes throughout his career. He has rated reasonably well at blocking pitches in the dirt as well, although his arm strength is fringy. Of the 54 catchers with 20+ throws to second base this year, only Logan O’Hoppe and Yasmani Grandal had longer pop times on average.
Caratini nevertheless brings some positives on both sides of the ball. He’s a better offensive player than Maldonado, who now is almost certainly headed elsewhere after spending the last four and a half seasons in Houston.
If the salaries are distributed evenly, the contract brings the Astros’ payroll projection to roughly $222MM (via Roster Resource). More notably, the $6MM average annual value puts Houston’s estimated luxury tax tab right at the $237MM base threshold. The Astros have tended to hover around the tax line, aligning with Brown’s comments throughout the offseason that the club is working with a fairly limited amount of financial flexibility. Now that backup catcher has been solidified, they figure to turn their attention to the middle relief group.
Chandler Rome and Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic first reported the Astros were in agreement with Caratini. Robert Murray of FanSided reported the two-year term, while Mark Feinsand and Brian McTaggart of MLB.com were first with the $12MM guarantee.
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