One of the Oakland Athletics' division rivals, the Houston Astros, have signed veteran catcher Victor Caratini to a two-year, $12 million contract.
Caratini has spent the past two seasons in Milwaukee. He struggled in 2022, but had a strong year in 2023. He hit .259/.327/.383 with 7 homers and strong defensive metrics in 62 games.
Caratini primarily functioned as William Contreras' backup in Milwaukee, and he'll likely serve in a similar role in Houston. The Astros parted ways with veteran Martin Maldonado this offseason due to his struggles at the plate.
Former Astros manager Dusty Baker was adamant about getting Maldonado playing time despite Maldonado hitting .191/.258/.348. He was lauded for his defensive skill and game calling abilities, plus the veteran leadership he provided behind the plate.
The Astros primary catcher should be Yainer Diaz, the 25 year old who broke out in his rookie season in 2023. Diaz hit .282 with 23 homers in 2023. He's not viewed as an elite defensive player but his bat belongs in the lineup.
The $6 million per year that the Astros are giving Caratini seems like a bit of an overpay given his career numbers. He's typically been a better defensive asset than a hitter, but the Astros are clearly willing to pay for his skill set. They can afford to do so given Diaz's status as a pre-arbitration player on a league minimum salary.
As it stands, the Athletics are currently slated to run with Shea Langeliers and Tyler Soderstrom behind the plate in 2024. Langeliers had a decent run in 2023. He hit just .205 but he bagged 22 home runs and provided solid defense.
Soderstrom is one of the major unanswered questions for the 2024 Athletics. He spent time bouncing between catcher, first base, and designated hitter last year and struggled at the plate. He played in 45 games and hit just .160 with a .232 on-base percentage.
Soderstrom does not have strong defense behind the plate and doesn't profile particularly well as a defensive first baseman, so he might get quite a bit of time at DH in 2024.
The Athletics need Soderstrom to hit. He was the A's first round pick in the 2020 draft and he breezed through 2021 and 2022 in the minor leagues. He showed good power and feel to hit at all levels of the minor leagues prior to 2023, and despite the high strikeouts, looked like a top prospect.
That hasn't panned out thus far, but it's still very early in Soderstrom's career. The A's need him to bounce back in 2024. If he doesn't, he becomes a big roster problem.