Astros: Exploring how Tyler Naquin would fit in Houston’s outfield
The Houston Astros are evaluating all outfield options, and could turn to a low-cost option on the market in Tyler Naquin.
The Houston Astros are two months away from Spring Training, which is enough time to address the outfield. As we inch closer, other teams are going to pick off the top targets of the Astros, with Michael Brantley and Jackie Bradley Jr. being among them. While the Astros signed Jose Siri, he isn’t the best fit as a fourth outfielder and hasn’t seen any time in the majors. There is one player on the market that hasn’t been in much chatter, and that is former Cleveland Indian Tyler Naquin.
The Indians let Naquin walk after the 2020 season, and they aren’t showing much interest in re-signing the 29-year-old. He played five seasons in Cleveland and only has a third place finish in the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year voting to his name. The Indians are looking for a big bat in their outfield, and this is the primary reason they are not pursuing Naquin. Some leg injuries in the past, including an ACL tear, have led to him missing large portions of previous seasons. While having a 3.1 career WAR, he could be a huge upgrade from their current No. 4 outfielder Myles Straw.
Naquin has a good size, standing 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, and being left-handed would add polarity to the lineup and will help with matchups. In 133 at bats through 40 games, Naquin struggled with .218/.248/.383 and four home runs at the plate. While not being a power hitter, he doesn’t walk a lot and would fit into the backend of the lineup when starting. If Naquin gets fully healthy and mimics his 2016 rookie campaign, we could see a valuable piece down the road. The issue is he hasn’t reached that level since and hasn’t played over 100 games as well. The ’20 season does point to Naquin having a little more power behind his swing as his RBI and home run rates slightly climbed, but his strikeout rate climbed as well as his walk rate dropping. Naquin is taking less pitches and is swinging for the fences. If the Astros can tone that down, he could be a smooth swing in the bottom half of the lineup.
While he hits left-handed, Naquin is right-handed in the field and has spent time in all three spots. More recently, he has played the most of his games in right field but had long extensions in center field. Naquin is not the replacement for George Springer, but he is an option to fill his place if come to it. With a career fielding percentage of .997, Naquin has only committed two errors in his career. He would be a solid platoon option if the Astros lock down Brantley and a center fielder, but if either don’t happen, Naquin wouldn’t be a bad fit defensively starting in center or right fields depending on where Kyle Tucker plays.
Statistics lead to paychecks, and for Naquin, he doesn’t have the numbers to make over $3 million a year. This offseason has been strange, but the Astros could do a short term deal of 1-2 years for Naquin to evaluate his progression and see if he stays healthy. Their best option would be to offer an incentive-laden contract to evaluate the course of Naquin and see if he will compete to their marked level.
Naquin could sign for a low-cost deal and be a replacement for Josh Reddick and an upgrade of Straw. He lacks a strong bat and isn’t the most diligent hitter, but adds a reliable glove in either center or right. If the market starts to deplete in talent in the next two months, the Astros could pursue Tyler Naquin and work to bring him back to his 2016 ways, but at 29 years old, it could be a tough task to change his plate approach.