MLB Rumors: Astros face stiff competition for Martin Maldonado
The Houston Astros and Martin Maldonado have "mutual interest" in a reunion, according to Chandler Rome of The Athletic. That said, several teams have checked in with the 37-year-old catcher, including the San Diego Padres, Miami Marlins, and Chicago White Sox.
Maldonado is a favorite of the Astros' coaching staff and bullpen, but he will cede starting duties to 25-year-old Yainer Diaz next season. Dusty Baker once said Diaz attended Maldonado's "boot camp." Now, the transition of power is official. Maldonado could return as a backup — Rome says Astros pitchers are holding out hope that he does — but another team could tempt the seasoned vet with more money and more opportunity to play.
Few players have developed a more volatile relationship with their fanbase than Maldonado in Houston. He's obviously a brilliant defender who develops a deep connection with his pitchers, but Maldy was essentially a non-factor in the batter's box last season. In 407 plate appearances, he slashed .191/.258/.348 with 15 home runs, 36 RBIs, 139 strikeouts, and 30 walks.
Diaz is a legitimate weapon on offense. That, combined with his youth, makes him the ideal starter. Maldonado is a good person to keep around the clubhouse, and around Diaz, but the Astros can't afford to use him extensively once the games start to count. If Maldonado is unwilling to accept a backup role, it's probably best to bite the bullet and let him walk.