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Astros Non-Tender: Can Evan Gattis and Chris Carter be on same team

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Can the Houston Astros carry both Evan Gattis and Chris Carter on the roster?

With Wednesday’s MLB non-tender deadline, the Houston Astros have some decisions to make as to which of the four arbitration eligible players they will tender contracts for the 2016. While some of the players have more of a chance to be tendered a contract, two players are very similar and could be on the hot seat. The four players are Chris Carter, Jason Castro, Evan Gattis, and Luis Valbuena. They are all very similar players, low batting average power hitters with high strikeout rates, so it will be hard to decide the one player that the Astros non-tender.

Castro appears to be safe at the moment, with no apparent replacement close to being major league ready. Yes, the team has Hank Conger, but if he were the everyday catcher, it would be a track meet on the bases with his throwing arm. After years of being the catcher in waiting, it seems that Max Stassi has been Jon Singelton-ed, he doesn’t seem to be in the Astros’ circle of trust anymore. Castro is far superior with the glove than Conger and has earned the trust of the pitchers’ with his Astros tenure. He will be on the Astros 2016 team.

As I wrote after the Jed Lowrie trade to the Athletics, Valbuena’s place on the team is guaranteed with Colin Moran and J.D. Davis still not quite expected to be ready to compete for the third base job. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Moran invited to spring training with the Astros, but can he outperform Valbuena who would be making an estimated $5.8 million from MLB Trade Rumors? Yes, Tyler White and Matt Duffy should both be major league ready, but I feel like the job is Valbuena’s at the moment. He will be on the Astros 2016 team.

This leaves the two players that I was most intrigued about coming into the 2015 season. They both had their struggles, with Carter struggling for the first 3-4 months of the season and Gattis struggling down the stretch and playoffs. The Astros are probably going to top a $100 million dollar salary in 2016, but they still have some pieces to add. There was some speculation that the Lowrie trade was a salary dump because Colby Rasmus accepted his qualifying offer of $15.8 million.

Should the Astros be trying to save money maybe for a free-agent or a possibly trying to stay below a certain payroll level, why keep two players who basically have the same skills? MLB Trade Rumors estimates that Carter is due to make about $5.6 million, and Gattis is due to make $3.4 million in 2016. If I were Jeff Luhnow, I would look long and hard at my options at DH and first base, and make the right choice not based on loyalty. There are whispers out there that the Astros would tender a contract to Carter because he has been with them longer, but Gattis had a slightly better year.

This post is not to bad mouth either player, on most teams they would both be tendered a contract, but the Astros have several cheaper options availability. The Astros seem to prefer Duffy at third base should he make the opening day roster as a backup third baseman. That leaves Singleton, who is rotting away at Triple-A, or White as I wrote yesterday. People always say that baseball is a business, you have to make the decisions sometimes based on what’s best for the team.

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Should the Astros hold onto Carter, he would most likely go back to being the designated hitter. Carter would need to perform better all season long and not just perform well during his hot streaks. The Astros can no longer wait for him to get hot anymore; he’s got to learn how to hit the breaking ball to make more contact. One of the younger players would then take over first base, most likely White as I wrote yesterday. However, should the Astros really cut ties with their leading home run and RBI hitter who they traded some quality prospects for?

The same outcome will happen if Gattis is held onto, White would most likely take over first. The Astros would be cutting ties with a player who hit 37 homers in 2014, which is hard to do. Gattis didn’t really take off like the Astros thought he was, but he wasn’t exactly an Eric Huysman at the plate. It’s hard to judge a player’s first year with a new club and new position, keeping the bench warm as the DH.

MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart thinks that the most likely player to be non-tendered a contract will be Carter. The Astros will try to trade one of the two before the deadline or tender both and continue to shop them around. The Astros have too many young players who could do better if given the chance. Gattis offers more consistency than Carter does for a cheaper price.

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If either of them is released, it could come back and haunt the Astros like the J.D. Martinez DFA a few years back if one of them start mashing on a new team. With several options available, including mega prospect A.J. Reed, why stick with the inconsistent Carter? We will know something next week.

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