Don’t say it isn’t the end of the line for a powerful member of the Houston Astros lineup.
On the heels of former outfielder Carlos Gomez signing with the Texas Rangers, the Houston Astros receive even more bad news as the day progressed.
Angel Verdejo Jr. of the Houston Chronicle reports that the Astros primary third baseman, Luis Valbuena, is headed back to Houston to have his right hamstring checked out further after he experienced a setback in his rehabilitation. This development even puts into question whether Valbuena has played his last game in 2016 or as an Astro in general.
Before his injury Valbuena managed to become the best Astros hitter not named George Springer, Jose Altuve, or Carlos Correa. In 90 games this season, the 30-year old slugger hit 13 home runs with 40 RBI while contributing with a 123 OPS+. That kind of production has, and will remain, difficult to replace.
However, this unfortunate news does create some needed roster flexibility. Current third baseman Alex Bregman has continued to improve upon his rough start to the majors. He has even provided the Astros with some quality glove work at the hot corner that is reminiscent of Valbuena. And with Cuban slugger Yulieski Gurriel working his way up the ladder in the minors, the team was in need of another roster spot to make way for him as well.
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This now leads into a bigger question: should the Astros resign Valbuena this offseason?
It all depends on how confident Houston’s front office remains on the development of Bregman, Gurriel, A.J. Reed, Tyler White, and Colin Moran.
Each of the Astros up-and-coming players outside of Gurriel have shown flashes of being decent major league players. Even Gurriel, once he has the chance to prove himself, has the tools to be successful. However, there are warts with each prospect, and not all prospects succeed.
Valbuena’s value in the Astros eyes is another factor.
If general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch determine that real value exists in regards to Valbuena protecting the potent lineup trio of Springer, Altuve, and Correa, then it could be a wise move to lock him up long-term. But the front office could decide otherwise and possibly allocate those resources to other areas to improve the club, like another starting pitcher.
Let’s be honest, Valbuena will surely receive a contract higher than one that would pay him more than the $6.13 million he is earning this season. He has shown he can hit major league pitching on a consistent basis, minus a slumping month or two during the season. And his versatility with the glove at third and first base is another draw.
Regardless, it is a downright letdown in seeing Valbuena’s season in jeopardy due to a hamstring injury. He was coming into his own in the Astros lineup, and the team’s latest tumble down the standings can be partly attributed to his absence.
**Statistics provided by Baseball-Reference**