Astros calling up catcher prospect Max Stassi

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Catcher has been one of the Astros’ few strengths this season, as Jason Castro has hit .270 with 14 homers and an .802 OPS to rank among baseball’s best, but with backup Carlos Corporan sidelined by a concussion Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reports that Houston is calling up catcher prospect Max Stassi.

Stassi has hit .277 with 17 homers and an .863 OPS in 76 games at Double-A as a 22-year-old and the former fourth-round pick has also thrown out 37 percent of steal attempts. He’s one of the better MLB-ready catching prospects in baseball and may have been in line for a September call-up anyway, so the move makes some sense.

Beyond this year, however, it’ll be interesting to see what the Astros do with Stassi. Normally he’d be on a path to take over as the starting catcher at some point next season, but Castro is just 26 years old and coming off his first All-Star campaign. It’s one of those nice problems to have and the Astros need talent wherever they can develop it, but at some point fairly soon trading a catcher will seemingly be in the plans.

BREAKING: Manny Machado to sign with the Padres: 10 years, $300 million

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Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that Manny Machado has a deal with the San Diego Padres. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the deal is for ten years and $300 million with an opt-out after year five.

At the moment there is some disagreement as to how “done” this deal is, with Padres chairman Ron Fowler saying “We do not have a deal. We are continuing discussions.” Ken Rosenthal, however, says that’s “semantics” and that the financial terms are in place, with the deal requiring over some final touches on language and Machado’s physical, which will likely be a formality.

The Padres were a late entrant into the Machado sweepstakes, but they reportedly met with Machado last week. The club has obviously not won for a long time, but they have a strong farm system. While that usually mitigates against a big free agent signing, Machado’s age — 26 — means that he’s still likely to be a productive player when that core of prospects is mature. And if it doesn’t develop, hey, he’s made some serious bank and can still opt-out at an age when he might get another decent paycheck.

For the Padres, Machado represents the biggest single investment in a player in club history. Last year they spent too, of course, giving Eric Hosmer an eight-year, $144 million contract, but this is definitely next-level. As for the baseball side of things, it’s likely that Machado will be the full-time third baseman with Luis Urias handling shortstop. While all of the talk about Machado over the past several months has been focused on money and, sometimes, his alleged lack of hustle, the Padres are getting a player with a career line of .282/.335/.487 (121 OPS+), 175 career homers and a 33.8 career WAR in seven big league seasons. While he played shortstop last year and as a minor leaguer, his past and future is at third, where he is a superior defender. As for the hustle: it has almost exclusively been an obsession of the media, based on an ill-advised postgame quote in October. He has received no bad reviews from former teammates, all of whom speak highly of his game and his work ethic.

When the offseason began it appeared that the Phillies or the Yankees or, perhaps, the White Sox had the inside track on Machado. Everyone took a wait-and-see approach, reasonably believing that by waiting out Machado, a better deal could be struck. The risk of that approach, of course, is that it allowed the Padres to talk themselves into getting bold and, ultimately, swooping in to strike this deal.