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On the Astros: As players get healthy, roster problems will exist

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What do the Astros do with the rotation in a couple weeks?

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

You like the Astros roster right now, don't you?

It's a nice roster. It only has one rookie on it, which is downright shocking, considering where the team has been in the past few years.

It also has problems. Some very big problems which mean it won't stay in the same piece for long.

The Astros had the same problem in spring training, when they pared it down to finalize the 25-man roster. Then, they didn't. Instead of making concrete decisions on guys, they shuffled two off to the disabled list.

But, those guys won't stay hurt forever. At least, not with these injuries. That means at some point very soon, the Astros will have to figure out how to add Brad Peacock, Brett Oberholtzer and Josh Fields back to the team.

Therein lies the problem.

The rotation

Houston only has five spots for starting pitchers. One of those goes to Dallas Keuchel, who was brilliant on Monday. Two more go to Scott Feldman, who's still signed for big money through next year, and Collin McHugh, who was the second-best pitcher on the staff last year.

That leaves two other spots. They're currently occupied by spring training surprise Asher Wojciechowski and venerable veteran Fauxsto Hernandez.

Two of those three disabled players are ticketed for the rotation. The Astros could banish Samuel Deduno to waivers and plug Brad Peacock in the long relief role, but his success at the end of last season suggests they want him starting.

Brett Oberholtzer, too, probably has a lock on a rotation spot, with how he pitched last season.

Does that mean Hernandez and Wojo are living on borrowed time?

It certainly seems that way. On Wednesday, Brian McTaggart tweeted that Peacock will start Fresno's season opener on Thursday. That's the same day that Wojo makes his MLB debut in Houston.

Coincidence? I think not. The Grizzlies were set to start Dan Straily on Thursday before things changed. While Fresno will feature a six-man rotation, you could see them bending the rules for a couple starts to keep Peacock on a five-day schedule.

Which means that Wojo's days on the roster could be numbered, no matter how he performs. Consider the next two weeks as extended spring training for Wojo. Unless he throws a couple shutouts, he's probably ticketed back for Triple-A.

That's because he's still got options. The Astros can send him down and not lose him from the organization. If they replaced Hernandez with Peacock, they don't have the option to go back to Fauxsto later in the year.

That leaves Obie. Since his timetable is pushed back, the Astros will have more time to figure out who wins his spot. The same issues return with options and team control, but you have to figure that in four or five weeks, the Astros will have a better feel for what Hernandez has left.

If he's hit a wall and has a 5.00+ ERA, I wouldn't be surprised if he were gone. Likewise, if he's pitching well and Peacock struggles, the Pea could get sent back down and Obie could take his spot instead.

The trade market

The x-factor here is Jeff Luhnow.

In an interview with Evan Drellich over the weekend, Luhnow admitted he was happy with the team's depth at every spot except the rotation. He basically wants a front-line starter to pair with Keuchel and McHugh.

Those guys don't come cheap. If the Astros are interested in competing for the playoffs this year, could Luhnow make a move earlier than we expect?

For instance, the San Diego Padres are in the market for a shortstop. The Astros don't have a roster problem on the position side, but they do have two backup infielders and only one backup outfielder (depending on how you view Gattis). Oh, and they also have a $2 million first baseman chilling in Triple-A.

Would Luhnow and new Padres GM pull the trigger on a deal sending Jonathan Villar, Brad Peacock and a prospect to San Diego for Andrew Cashner?

Few GMs are willing to blow up their teams this early in the season, but neither team would be doing that. The Padres can't be counting on huge inning totals from Cashner, considering his injury history. The Astros also have a surplus of back-end starters like Peacock and can replace Villar's production on the bench, if not his considerable upside.

You could construct trades like this for Cole Hamels, too, though it's less likely Houston would be interested in beating out some of Philly's other suitors for the left-hander.

The Astros don't have to make a trade, but they will have a problem soon. How they clear that up will tell us something about Houston's intentions for this season.