What to do with the Astros third/first baseman as free agency rapidly approaches?
Luis Valbuena, who was acquired in the trade that sent Dexter Fowler to the Cubs, just finished one of his best seasons. Unfortunately, it was shortened by a hamstring injury that ended up needing surgery. Now Valbuena is entering free agency, and that leads to some complications for the Astros.
Valbuena’s injury led to the Astros bringing up young stud Alex Bregman, and he caught fire and staked out his spot on the diamond. With the revolving door that the Astros have had at first base, Valbuena has participated in that stop-gap here and there. He did quite well there and adds some pop from that side. With no other clear first baseman, is he the option going forward until someone else takes it from him?
Luis sported a .260 BA and .816 OPS in 2016. Both of those are above his career averages and his highest since hitting the Bigs. He started slow, as did the entire team except for Altuve. He only hit .183 in April, but slowly brought that up, hitting .316 in June with a .940 OPS. That came down a bit in July, but then his hammy went out on him.
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Of the 973 first basemen (I slightly exaggerate) that the Astros used, Valbuena was tops with a 2.0 WAR. This is nothing to throw a party for, but it was at least on the positive side and was not just a fraction. This brings me to my big question, what to do, what to do?
Valbuena has proven to be a decent first bagger. He sported a .970 FP at third base, and a perfect 1.00 at first. Granted, he only played eight games and 60 innings there. I do like the fact that he has never had an error at first. It just sounds good. But now the front office has to decide what to do since he is coming off of a one-year, $6.13 million contract. We have Yulieski Gurriel that can slide in there and we are still waiting to see if any of our three “true” first base candidates can do anything.
Jon Singleton has taken himself out of the equation in my opinion. He has even started to stall at AAA. AJ Reed did not quite bust out as everyone was hoping and expecting. Tyler White went down and seemed to have possibly found his swing again. Personally, I think it is time to move on and let him seek a good payday.
While will miss Valbuena’s bat flips, the team does seem to be set in the infield. And the Astros will most likely need to spend that money elsewhere.
**Statistics provided by MLB.com**