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Tuesday's Three Astros Things

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Talking about teams monitoring the Astros, Tommy John surgery and Aiken/Nix...

Some things to talk about while we drink a green beer to celebrate St. Patty's Day...

1) Teams "monitoring" the Astros

THAT'S what all those drones were doing over Kissimmee in the past week.

Problem No. 1: The Astros do not have enough offense themselves right now. Until Singleton and Marisnick prove they can hit, there will be holes. Until then, Carter can't be made available.

Problem No. 2: Chris Carter is a better version of Evan Gattis. Trading him and keeping El Oso Blanco doesn't make sense and hasn't made sense since it was brought up right after Houston acquired Gattis.

Solution: Carter won't be traded, but Matt Dominguez might be. As we've covered before, Matty D won't likely make the team. Valbuena is in line to start at third and, with only one backup infield spot, Dominguez appears ticketed for the minors.

He also makes sense as a guy who teams might try to acquire at the end of the spring. He's a little like Justin Maxwell in that respect. He has a couple of standout tools but has struggled in his big league time.

Some team could take a flier on him for a PTBNL or a low minors pitcher at the end of the spring and put him on their bench.

That makes more sense than the Astros trading away Carter. Better to deal with a good problem like having too much depth than trading away valuable guys now. If things haven't sorted themselves out by midseason, the Astros could flip Carter in July for a bigger haul.

2) Another TJ case

Another young pitcher went down with an elbow injury. This time, it was the Mets' Zach Wheeler. As Mark Normandin points out in the daily "Say Hey, baseball!," the rash of TJ surgeries won't be going away any time soon.

Jonah Keri spoke with Dr. Glenn Fleisig and published that conversation last week at Grantland, and you probably won't like what he learned. This isn't some coincidence or phase for Baseball, but is instead the new reality. Single-sport specialization at the youth level has meant more and more young pitchers throwing more and more often, because they end up playing baseball basically year round. These pitchers get "little, undetected injuries" over the course of their prolific amateur careers, and by the time they show up in the pros, their elbow is already torn, or on the way to tearing.

As a high school sports writer by day, one of my biggest pet peeves is sport specialization. it's very rare to see two-sport athletes any more, much less three-sport athletes. While I was in Port Arthur, i covered a kid who made first team all-district in three different sports. As far as we could tell, it was the first time that had happened in 60 years.

Was that kid a transcendent talent? No, not really. He was just really good and one of the few kids who played three different sports.

/steps off soapbox

Now then, where was I? Oh, right, Tommy John. Noah Jarosh over at Brew Crew Ball wrote this informative post, comparing how many TJ surgeries organizations had since 2005. The Astros are in the top 10 for TJ surgeries on the big league staff in that time frame. That's not a good place to be.

What's too early to tell is whether the new front office's attempts to implement tandem starting and other things will help or hurt that trend. I anticipate it will lessen the need for TJ surgeries, but as Keri found out above, that damage could have been done long before a pitcher gets to the majors.

What's the next course of action? Well, I think you'll find teams trying to convert position players to pitcher. Find that big, lanky right fielder for a high school team and teach him how to pitch. Get a catcher with a cannon and bring him out from behind the plate. Find guys with strong arms who haven't pitched at all in the past.

Or, you know, get the word out to parents. Let your kid play baseball in the spring, soccer/basketball/hockey/whatever in the summer and non-contact football/lacrosse/whatever in the fall. Mix it up.

3) Drellich on Nix, Aiken

Finally, an old piece of business we didn't get to on Monday. Evan Drellich has an update on the Nix/Aiken situation with some very interesting passages. Let's look at it.

"We supported the players throughout," Clark said during a visit to Astros camp on Thursday as part of the Players Association's annual tour around spring training. "There were a number of concerns that were there, as I mentioned during that time. Where we are today, in a lot of different ways in finding some common ground to move the line forward, is a reflection of the concerns that we have.

That's MLBPA president Tony Clark talking about the situation. As we covered when it went down last summer, it sets a pretty dangerous precedent for MLB. The union supporting non-members is a slippery slope, only because the union has never shown any interest in supporting its non-members before now. Have you seen the wages for minor leaguers? Or the testing guideline differences between minor leaguers and major leaguers for drugs of abuse?

That's what Drellich addresses head-on.

But beyond the decision of whether Nix rightfully had a contract with the Astros — and in the big picture, a more important issue for the league and the union — was the parallel risk to both parties that a precedent could be set.

A player is not a part of the union until he is on a 40-man roster, and players who aren't in the union aren't covered by the collective bargaining agreement. A ruling one way or another could have led to a ripple effect for future situations where a player who is not on a 40-man roster sought relief.

The draft system is collectively bargained, giving the union ground to stand on, but a drafted player signs a minor league contract, creating a grey area.

From a baseball perspective, this is something everyone should be following more closely. It may lay dormant for now, but I could see the MLBPA making a stink about this sort of thing once the collective bargaining agreement is up for negotiations again.