This outside-the-box strategy could salvage the Astros problem at first base

The Astros have a glaring issue at first base, and it's time to fix it.
Toronto Blue Jays v Houston Astros
Toronto Blue Jays v Houston Astros / Logan Riely/GettyImages

The Houston Astros have a massive problem at first base. José Abreu is somehow worse than he was in 2023, and Jon Singleton remains a great AAA player that can't hit at the big league level.

Entering Wednesday night's game, the two are a combined 5-48 with zero (0!!) RBI. Neither is a particularly good defender and have combined for -1.0 bWAR in 12 games. It's a truly unbelievable level of ineptitude.

Abreu, for the first time in his career, was dropped to eighth in the lineup Wednesday night.

With $19.5 million committed to Abreu this year and next and Singleton out of options, the picture has been painted that the Astros don't have any possible solution to their issue. But what if they do?

This outside-the-box strategy could salvage the Astros' problem at first base

While the Astros can't trade Abreu and are unlikely to DFA the struggling vet, they don't have to play him every day. Nor do they have to play Singleton. And they can do it without calling up Joey Loperfido.

How can they do such a thing? Houston should platoon Yainer Diaz and Victor Caratini at first base. It's not a perfect solution, and very atypical of a team competing for a ring, but it's the only way around having a guaranteed out in the lineup and poor defender in the field.

Diaz played 63 innings at first base last season. Caratini, in his eight-year career, has played 290.2 innings there, and is worth one defensive run saved. Additionally, Diaz is raking to begin the year, while Caratini is 4-12 with a home run. Caratini hit .259 with a .711 OPS last year.

Houston could get creative to save the legs of their young catcher and eliminate the black hole that is Abreu. It sounds nuts, and again, it's not a perfect solution, but it is their own fault for being in this position.

If it's a week with five games, Diaz would catch three times a week, while Caratini would catch the other two. Houston should DFA Singleton and can recall César Salazar, who would be the emergency catcher and could allow for both late-game pinch-running and DH days. If it creeps up to six games in a week, Mauricio Dubón could work in some spot starts at first, or Abreu could play once a week.

With either Diaz or Caratini behind the plate, you have a catcher that is solid defensively and more than capable of holding his own offensively. Caratini also provides a different look as a switch hitter. If you can get both in the lineup 75% of the time, you eliminate the guaranteed out.

It brings in an additional host of injury risks, yes, and it's asking a lot out of the two, but until Houston either calls up Loperfido or does the unthinkable and DFAs Abreu to then sign a free agent like Brandon Belt, it's the only way they can actually address the void.

In an ideal world, Diaz would catch three times, play first once, and DH twice. Caratini would catch twice a week, with Salazar catching the remainder of the games, play first three times, and the remaining first base starts would be split between Abreu and Dubón.

There would of course be rest days for the two worked in, and this isn't a permanent solution. Houston must find help either via free agency or as the trade deadline creeps closer.

But until that time comes, the Astros need to show some urgency. They showed none last year, back-doored their way into a division title after a Rangers implosion down the stretch, and were unable to flip the urgency switch in the postseason, losing all four playoff games at home.

Houston has scored more than three runs only three times in 12 games. Seven of Abreu's 34 bats have come with runners on, and eight have come with runners in scoring position. He has two singles and 0 RBI in those plate appearances.

Seven of Singleton's 14 at-bats have come with the bases occupied. If you're doing the math at home, exactly half of the Astros at-bats taken by Abreu and Singleton have come with runners on. How is it possible that they haven't even dropped in a bloop for an RBI, much less hit one baseball into a gap?

If Houston is serious about kickstarting the offense, repeating as AL West champs, and getting back on top of the AL, they can't fool around for another season at first base. It's time to move on from Singleton, move Abreu to the bench, and get Caratini's bat in the lineup.