Option 5: Luis Valbuena
Aug 25, 2015; Bronx, NY; Houston Astros first baseman Luis Valbuena (18) hits a two-run double in the first inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports
5. Luis Valbuena
2016 AGE: 30
2016 SALARY: Arbitration-Eligible (Made $4.2M in 2015); Team Control Through 2016
With one year left before free agency, Valbuena is due $5M to $5.5M in arbitration. Like Carter and Gattis, I would prefer they non-tender or otherwise dump Valbuena before such a raise kicks in. The combined savings of $15M+ for 2016, replaced by Singleton and league-minimum corner bats, would allow the Astros to pursue a front-line starting pitcher, catcher or corner outfielder and offset the majority of that player’s 2016 salary.
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As a hitter, Valbuena is essentially a left-handed Gattis, feasting on mistakes and flailing at well-executed pitches. As I explored last week, Valbuena has been badly exposed by off-speed pitches as the year has gone on. He does not walk enough or provide the kind of baserunning and defensive value you need to off-set such a low-average, high strikeout approach. On a team without Singleton, Reed, and Lowrie, he’d be a close call. On this team, there’s no argument to pay him above the minimum.
While it is not a franchise-altering loss, we did not do well in the Dexter Fowler deal. Fowler has had a spectacular second half for the Cubs, and will net a qualifying offer and a draft pick for Chicago over the winter.
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Next: Option 6: Tyler White and Matt Duffy