While the Houston Astros have sought external help for positions such as catcher, right field, and designated hitter, the battle for first and third base will be conducted internally. They will enter the season with an abundance of depth and versatility at both corners, a combination that will give the Astros the luxury of choice.
Here is an idea of what those options are and what the best course of action could be.
Their depth at the hot corners would allow them to trade for a position of need — a starting pitcher. The rotation is already solid, especially if Dallas Keuchel rebounds from his poor 2016, but they could solidify their spot in the upper echelon of American League teams with another good starter.
Third baseman Alex Bregman would be a perfect headliner in any trade for starters such as Jose Quintana, Sonny Gray or Chris Archer. First base prospect A.J. Reed and Colin Moran, who is one of the many Astros who is able to play both corner infield positions, could also have value as a second or third piece in a trade. Losing a player like Bregman could hurt in the long run, but the Astros are geared to contend this year. In 2017, a pitcher like Quintana could be more valuable than Bregman, especially when Yulieski Gurriel could produce similar numbers to the latter.
Use their versatility
If the Astros choose to stand pat, which appears to be the case, the versatility of these players can be an advantage. According to their depth chart, three players are listed as options for first and third base: Gurriel, Moran and Marwin Gonzalez. Bregman, Gurriel and Gonzalez also played left field in 2016, although only Gonzalez played more than one game there. That type of versatility gives manager A.J. Hinch an opportunity to mix and match until he finds the right combination.
Bregman will be entrenched at third base, but if he’s given a day off or fills in for Jose Altuve at second base, Hinch has options. First base could be divvied up between many different players. This rotation could help in keeping these players fresh and productive.
Let it play out
Going into Spring Training, competition is never a bad thing. Reed could dominate in the spring, making it easy to put him in the starting lineup. Gurriel could struggle and end up on the bench. Bregman might end up hurt in the World Baseball Classic and miss time in the regular season.
So, which way would work best?
Based on the message the Astros have sent this offseason, using their depth to trade for a starter seems like the best way to give the team a chance to compete for a title. They have built a serious contender for 2017 and one more move could make them the favorites in the American League. A trade such as this would cost more than Bregman – the price would be very steep, in fact – but it would be worth it.
No matter which way they decide to go, the depth and versatility they have with their corner infielders puts them in a great spot.
Dillon Healy is a Staff Writer for Outside Pitch MLB. You can follow him on Twitter here.