Astros may make Jason Castro available

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Catcher Jason Castro was the Astros’ most productive player throughout the 2013 season but they may make him available in a trade depending on the development of catching prospect Max Stassi and their ability to sign Castro to a contract extension, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Castro, 26, is eligible for arbitration for the first time and can become a free agent after the 2016 season.

In his first full season in the big leagues, Castro finished 2013 with a .276/.350/.485 line and was the fourth-most valuable catcher in baseball according to FanGraphs WAR (min. 400 plate appearances).

Stassi, who turns 23 in March, moved up to Double-A for the first time and enjoyed a lot of success. In 323 plate appearances with Corpus Christi, he posted an .863 OPS with 17 home runs. He is also highly regarded for his ability to play defense. If Stassi continues to progress rapidly and the Astros are able to sign Castro to an extension, Rosenthal suggests the Astros may move Castro to first base.

Japanese Baseball to begin June 19

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Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.

The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.

The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.

In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.