Houston Astros check out Austin Barnes as possible Chirinos replacement

Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes, who's being targeted by the Houston Astros (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes, who's being targeted by the Houston Astros (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The Houston Astros are still seeking catching options for 2020 and the latest report indicates they’re looking at Austin Barnes. What’s going on?

Houston Astros fans — the much-anticipated and highly-ballyhooed Winter Meetings in San Diego have come and gone.  As I’m sure we all expected, the Houston Astros watch this event largely from the sidelines as big names such as Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon were inked to lucrative, long-term deals.

The only deal of significance that occurred during this period was the successful trade of defensive specialist Jake Marisinick to the New York Mets for prospect hopefuls Blake Taylor and Kenedy Corona.  The pact certainly relives a pressure value of a glut at the outfield position and this move certainly moves that needle down a bit.

However, there’s still a lot of work to do to trim that outfield even more as the conundrum between who will be starting right fielder in 2020 is certainly in question.  It’s for Kyle Tucker to take a more prominent role on this team and Josh Reddick is certainly the barrier that’s standing in his way to doing that.

You could tell during the postseason — as well as the final September stretch — on how the Houston Astros tried to give Tucker time in the outfield by giving Reddick days off.  I’m positive they won’t be playing musical chairs with that position this season so I strongly feel that Reddick will continue to be a strong trade candidate over the next few months.

But another concern is the catching position.  Both Robinson Chirinos and Martin Maldonado are free agents and they’ve expressed interest in bringing back Chirinos but the New York Mets, Texas Rangers, Cincinnati Reds are interested in his services, which certainly could drive his price up.  The fact that he hasn’t re-signed with the Houston Astros goes to show that both parties aren’t on the same page in terms of a contract.

I’m sure there is some level of affinity for Maldonado but it’s apparent that they’re looking at other options, especially with the team recently signing Dustin Garneau to a one-year deal.

But what if they Houston Astros can’t bring Chirinos back?  They’ve got their eye on an option with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times is reporting the Houston Astros have expressed a desire to trade for Austin Barnes, a catcher with a lot of promise but has underwhelmed in terms of taking the reins of being their premier backstop.  Will Smith has essentially taken his job and now this makes Barnes a moveable asset.

Mark Polishuk of MLB Trade Rumors indicates that the Houston Astros like his pitch-framing and defensive capabilities although he’s not necessarily hitting a ton at the plate.  But as we know, that certainly was the case with Chirinos but he turned to have an amazingly solid season with the Houston Astros.

It’s looking like the Houston Astros have their hopes pinned on bottling up what Barnes has,

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harnessing it and then unleashing among us all once the season starts as yet another reclamation project for an underachieving player.

I’m sure a lower-level prospect or two will get the job done in terms of landing Barnes’ services but to be quite honest, I’d rather have Chirinos back in the fold.  He’s just a great fit with this team and has had an excellent rapport with Justin Verlander, which his input could be a factor in terms of who the team signs this Winter to be the No. 1 catcher.

The 29-year-old catcher agreed to terms with the Dodgers to be signed for $1.1 million for 2020 and has two more seasons of club control before becoming a free agent in 2023.

The terms are attractive and the potential for him to shine with the Houston Astros is irresistible but it’s all a matter of what the Dodgers will let him go for.

Astros: Trading Correa and Reddick for Castillo would be shrewd. dark. Next

We’ll have to see how this shakes out as I’m quite curious about this guy.

Barnes hit .203/.293/.340 along with five homers and 25 ribbies through 242 plate appearances in 75 games last season.