In 1987, as a 35-year old, Alan Ashby played in the most games of his career in a single season. He was in there in 125 games for the Houston Astros, the third-to-last of his 11-year career with the team.
When Houston picked him up in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays, Ashby was sort of a mystery. He was the centerpiece of a four-person deal and was the only player Houston got in return. He had never played a full season, even in the minors and never had a huge offensive year.
The best he could do offensively was a .284/.385/.412 line at Triple-A Oklahoma City with Cleveland in 1974. The next year, he got 302 plate appearances for Cleveland, but couldn't hit his way out of a paper bag. He played a couple more seasons there, then bopped over to Toronto for two seasons, topping out at 459 plate appearances that first year with the Blue Jays.
But, two years later, the Jays had given up on him and sent him to Houston. The Astros appeared to have gotten a steal, by taking a gamble on a player at a position where it's hard to find players. Even though Ashby didn't hit, he threw out base runners at a very good clip (before I think injuries took away his effectiveness). I'd also suppose he ran a pitching staff well. He certainly hung around some good ones in Houston.
This year's Astros team has taken some chances on guys at key positions. Jordan Schafer, Justin Maxwell, Jed Lowrie, Marwin Gonzalez, Chris Snyder, Tyler Greene, all these guys play key defensive positions on the field. They took a chance and hoped they hit on a guy who can provide value. Jump on Snyder all you want, but look at Ashby's batting line those first couple years in Houston. What would have happened in '86 if Ashby hadn't been around?
Bad teams should take chances on players with upside. They've got the playing time to burn, so why not give the Fernando Martinez's of the world a chance? Sometimes, it works out pretty well.