According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, the Houston Astros are interested in trading catcher Jason Castro and/or centerfielder Dexter Fowler. The 28 year-old Fowler is projected by Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors to get $9 million through arbitration this offseason, while the 27 year-old Castro is projected at $3.9 million for his 2015 salary.
While the Astros have an interest in moving Jason Castro, they had also been open to extending him. Chris Cotillo had reported that Castro’s side had turned down an offer last offseason that would’ve been roughly 2 years/$10 million, plus 2 club option years for 2017 and 2018 which would have totaled around $15 million. However, according to Evan Drellich, talks between the Astros and Castro have appeared to stall.
The possibility of trading Castro, who hit at a .222/.286/.366 clip over 512 plate appearances, was strengthened by the Astros acquisition of Hank Conger earlier this offseason. Conger—a former 2006 first-round pick—posted a .221/.293/.325 slash in 260 PA, while splitting time with Chris Iannetta for the Los Angeles Angels last season. Conger has never gotten the opportunity to be an everyday catcher at the big league level, and is seen as a defensive catcher due to his framing ability. The Astros also have Carlos Corporan, who hit .235/.302/.376 in 190 PA while backing up Castro last season.
With the addition of Conger, the Astros have the ability to now trade away Castro and/or Corporan. While the return may be higher, and rightfully so, with a trade of Jason Castro the Astros would like to see some bullpen help in return—according to Cafardo.
Dexter Fowler, who had a .276/.375/.399 line over 505 PA, is in a similar situation. However, it’s not as much logjam as it is the Astros reluctancy to spend money on players they don’t see themselves locking up long-term. Fowler will go through arbitration for the final time this offseason, and will become a free-agent next offseason unless the Astros can extend him long term. With his projected arbitration salary of $9 million, the Astros would rather see if a competing team could use a 2015 centerfielder—and would be willing to part with either controllable bullpen help and/or controllable prospects.
The Astros also have the parts to replace Fowler, as well. George Springer, Robbie Grossman, or Jake Marisnick could be moved to centerfield if they Astros don’t receive a centerfield prospect in return.
The asking price for Castro is high most-likely because Castro does not become a free agent until after the 2016 season, and the Astros do not want to rush into a deal just to clean up their situation at catcher. Fowler would be the most plausible to see traded but, much like Castro, the Astros would likely only move him if they see a good bullpen piece or two in return.
The Astros are likely just testing the market with Castro and Fowler this early on, but it doesn’t look like they will rush into anything—and could always hang onto one or both until the trade deadline to see if they could maximize their return then.