ANAHEIM (AP)  — The Los Angeles Angels on Thursday traded slick-fielding catcher Martin Maldonado to the Houston Astros for lefty prospect Patrick Sandoval and $250,000 in international signing bonus pool money.

Maldonado’s contributions behind the plate helped the Angels’ starters post a 3.77 ERA, which ranked fifth in the American League despite numerous injuries and significant inexperience in their rotation. A Gold Glove winner last season, Maldonado is also hitting .223 with 32 RBIs in 78 games.

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“Martin has been a huge part of what we know has been a terrific year on the mound,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “There’s no doubt that Martin had the respect of everybody, not only the coaching staff but the players, and contributed greatly to where we needed to be on the defensive side.”

Maldonado, who is owed $1,362,903 from his $3.9 million salary, is eligible for free agency after the World Series. He understood that a trade was possible given the Angels trailed Houston by 15½ games in the AL and began the day 10½ games back of Seattle for the second wild-card berth.

“I’m going to be a free agent. We haven’t played the way we want to play, and today is business. They got to do whatever is best for the team,” Maldonado said.

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Maldonado said he was initially caught by surprise when he was informed of the trade, but welcomed the opportunity to join the defending World Series champions.

“Playing against those guys, it’s a team that they never give up,” Maldonado said. “They compete from the first pitch to the 27th out, so I’m looking forward to learn more as soon as I get there about those pitchers and those guys.”

The Astros designated catcher Tim Federowicz for assignment. Federowicz is hitting .206 with two RBIs in 10 games this season.

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