On the free agency market, there is no player with the exact same repertoire as Carlos Correa for the Houston Astros. It is either, they re-sign him or pick up what they lost in his ability in other players.
The offensive side could be replaced in Starling Marte, as talks with the free agent centerfielder heat up. But when it comes down to defense, there is no one available that can replicate a Platinum Glove season with 21 Defensive Runs Saved.
Jeremy Pena and Pedro Leon are currently on the rise in Triple-A, and looking at major-league readiness, Pena could be the first top prospect we see for the Astros’ infield since Alex Bregman’s callup in 2016.
Pena has an above average glove and new stroke of power, that some could identify at major-league ready. And while only playing 30 Triple-A games last season due to injury, the Astros could wait on calling up the 24-year-old.
In that case, the Astros could explore free agency or lean on Aledmys Diaz. But there is another route they could take: a trade. You never truly know who is up grabs in terms of team-controlled players, but one name defensively that comes to mind is Kevin Newman of the Pittsburg Pirates.
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The Astros could trade for Kevin Newman as a super utility player and even a stopgap at shortstop.
The Astros struggled with depth beyond Aledmys Diaz, who fell to injury in June, for large chunks of the season. With Abraham Toro building a case to be traded, Robel Garcia and then Jacob Wilson didn’t offer much at the plate nor in the field.
With CJ Hinojosa electing free agency in Triple-A, the Astros don’t have that many major-league ready infielders to turn to, if Pena is deemed unready. This is where Newman comes in. And even though he has option years left according to FanGraphs, Newman would likely be a major-league stay, as the Astros can find optionable infield depth elsewhere.
I thought of Newman as a throw-in at the deadline, if the Astros were to trade for reliever Richard Rodriguez. But with that ship sailing, Newman’s defense could be a plus in the utility role, while he can play the middle infield at an elite level.
Newman was a finalist for the National League Gold Glove at shortstop this year, after being in the 82nd percentile for Outs Above Average and having seven DRS, a career-high, for the ’21 season. The only issue of Newman’s game is his offense, which is not what the Astros would be trading for.
The right-hander hit .226/.265/.309, the lowest of his career in a full regular season (148 games). In 2019 (130 games), Newman slashed to an .800 OPS, but the raw power has never there. His peripherals display it best, as he is in the lower percentiles of hard hit categories.
Without another Correa on the market, sometimes you have to sacrifice offense for defense similar to 2021 with George Springer departing and Myles Straw, who was a Gold Glove finalist, taking over.
I do not believe Newman would be an everyday shortstop for the Astros, as his role would be a utility man if Diaz is the starting shortstop to start the season. Both Newman and Diaz fare better against left-handed pitching, so a platoon might not be as evident.
Newman is also still under team control, while going through his first arbitration this offseason. The 28-year-old is expected to make $2.5 million this winter with two more years of arbitration, before being a free agent in 2025.
For a trade, the Astros could likely give up a starting pitcher with seven major-league pitchers available for their rotation. The ball club would obviously get more in their return, as the Pirates have the fourth-best farm system by MLB Pipeline.
For example, if a pitcher like Framber Valdez, who still has three years of team control and can be an All-Star caliber pitcher, is traded, the Astros could find some gems within the Pirates’ Top 20 in pitchers and outfielders.
Newman wouldn’t be Correa’s replacement, but he would add utility depth if Diaz is the starting shortstop come April. With Taylor Jones on the roster, it would behoove the Astros to have a versatile middle infielder to complement him.