The Tigers have had "preliminary trade contact" with the Houston Astros about one of their catchers, according to Fox Sports' Jon Morosi. After trading for former Los Angeles Angels backstop Hank Conger in early November, the Astros have three catchers with significant major league experience on their roster. Morosi indicates that the Tigers could be in play for Conger, Jason Castro, or Carlos Corporan.
Castro is easily the best hitter of the trio, with a career .316 on-base percentage and .716 OPS to his name. He hit .276/.350/.485 with 18 home runs and 56 RBI in 2013, leading to his first career All-Star berth. The left-hander regressed considerably in 2014, hitting just .222/.286/.366. He was still able to add 14 home runs and 56 RBI in 512 plate appearances. Castro has rated as an above average defensive catcher over the past couple seasons, accumulating +4 defensive runs saved. His caught stealing numbers are not quite as impressive, but dealing with a young pitching staff could be partially to blame.
Corporan is a switch-hitter who has served as Castro's backup for the past two seasons. He is a career .226/.286/.350 hitter with 17 home runs in 659 plate appearances across four-plus seasons. He has a higher career batting average against left-handed pitching, but more power against righties. Regardless, neither platoon split is very impressive, and at 30 years old -- he will be 31 on Opening Day 2015 -- Corporan is nothing more than a backup at this point in his career.
Conger is a former first round pick who spent his entire career with the Angels before being traded to the Astros earlier this month. Another switch hitter, Conger has hit .224/.294/.353 in 768 career plate appearances across five seasons. Over 500 of those plate appearances have come in the past two seasons when he was splitting time with Chris Iannetta. Like Corporan, Conger has better career splits against right-handed pitching, but nothing worth writing home about.
Astros catching prospect Max Stassi is expected to see significant playing time at the major league level soon, further increasing the Astros' need to deal a catcher. Morosi did not indicate that Stassi was one of the catchers the Tigers were interested in, though I would not rule him out of Dave Dombrowski's reach.
The timing of this rumor is odd, and raises a lot of questions about the Tigers' current catching situation. With Alex Avila as the current starter and one of Bryan Holaday or James McCann locked in as a backup, the team isn't in need of a catcher for 2015. None of the Astros' options are a major upgrade over Avila, and neither Corporan nor Conger are lefty mashers like McCann was in the minor leagues last year.
One possibility is that the Tigers are looking for someone to split time with Avila in 2015 -- similar to the shared workload Conger and Iannetta had in Los Angeles -- with that player taking over if and when Avila leaves in free agency. Castro is under club control through the 2016 season, while Corporan and Conger are both under contract through 2017.
Update: According to Jason Beck, the Tigers were interested in Corporan.
The Tigers talks were believed to center around switch-hitting backup Carlos Corporan, who has pounded Tigers pitching the last two years (9-for-22, 3 HRs, 4 RBIs). Two of those home runs came off Max Scherzer in 2013. Corporan also homered off Evan Reed this past May.
Still doesn't make much sense to me.