Would the Astros sign a DH only type of player for the bat?
While the Astros did miss out on Nelson Cruz, there were probably reasons why. For example, as we saw last year with Evan Gattis, a DH is not going to play every day with the Astros. AJ Hinch likes to rotate the position players in the designated hitter spot to rest them from playing the field. We saw that especially when a player, like Jose Altuve, was designated hitter for a while as he was dealing with knee pain.
The Twins paid Cruz $14.3 million to be their DH for one year plus a team option for 2020. Maybe the Astros weren’t willing to pay that much for a better, but older, version of what Gattis could offer. Like Gattis, Cruz is only a DH, which removes their bats versus National League teams. Adding Cruz would have been great to lengthen the lineup, but they didn’t want to overpay. Now they are moving on.
EE on the Astros radar?
Depending on how much you trust Jon Morosi with Astros rumors, they have been discussing other options. One of them was Edwin Encarnacion, who the Astros were rumored to have considered signing him before the 2017 season. He ended up with the Indians and Carlos Beltran with the Astros, resulting in the World Series win in 2017.
The Indians traded him to the Mariners, who are looking to flip him again this offseason. Morosi said on a
Encarnacion batted .246 in 2018 while hitting 32 homers and driving in 107 runs. He has averaged 133+ strikeouts per season for the last three years. Like Cruz, he would add a big bat in the middle of the lineup, but that would be all that he could do. He has played mostly DH with the Indians, but he has seen 23 games at first base each of those years. He would offer a little more position flexibility there than Cruz, but not much.
Encarnacion is due to make about $21.6 million in his final guaranteed season under his current contract. If the Astros didn’t want to pay Cruz $14.3 million, why would they want to pay Encarnacion that much. He also has an $20 million option for 2020 with a $5 buyout. They could try to get that dropped similar to Justin Verlander, but that is unlikely. It would be a huge investment for the Astros.
This makes me think that they will chase a bat that is not limited to DH. While Jose Martinez is not known for his defense, he can play at first base and outfield. Morosi mentioned him as an option, but not directly towards the Astros. But he would offer some position flexibility that the Astros seek out.
Martinez is a name that we could hear come up at some point. Last year he batted .305 with 17 homers and 83 RBI. Like if they are indeed trying to make a trade for Seth Lugo, Martinez would be under team control through 2022. He won’t bring you any flashbacks of what Marwin Gonzalez can offer defensively.
There could be other free agent names they could look at, but I’m not sure we will see a Gattis reunion. They want someone who can play the field. What free agents do you see out there that match this description? They are obviously on the prowl for another bat to add to the lineup.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***