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Astros 2016 Potential Trades Series: Third Base

The Astros have a flat-out glut of talented players all jostling for major league position. How is this going to be handled going forward? Let's examine third base in part five of an eight-part series.

Colin Moran figures to feature prominently into the Astros' plans for the future at the hot corner.
Colin Moran figures to feature prominently into the Astros' plans for the future at the hot corner.
Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

While not heavily mentioned by as particularly active this trade season, it seems exceedingly likely in spite of a rocky start to 2016 that the Astros are once again deadline buyers this season, and not just to address holes at the major league level...but possibly also to address mounting logjams at the upper minor league levels.

Welcome to part five of an eight-segment, position by position run down of the situation with the club, and then we'll examine possible (and perhaps even likely) outcomes of these situations near the end of the series. Here’s the schedule, so you know when to expect each article:

Pitching: Published April 25th, 2016
Published April 26th, 2016
First Base: Published April 27th, 2016
Second Base: Published April 28th, 2016
Third Base: April 29th, 2016
Shortstop: May 2nd, 2016
Outfield: May 3rd, 2016
Conclusions Drawn: May 4th, 2016

Third Base

This is another position from which the Astros can aggressively move players via trade.  Luis Valbuena and Marwin Gonzales currently hold the position with the parent club.  Tyler White also has some experience at the hot corner, though he is widely reviled by scouts for his defense at the position.

In the upper minors, Colin Moran and 2015 Pacific Coast League Most Valuable Player Matt Duffy are both biding their time in Fresno while J.D. Davis resides in Corpus.  Nick Tanielu and Marc Wik are further away and lesser known in High-A Lancaster, and Bobby Wernes is even further away and even less well-known in Quad Cities.

In a piece we put up last week, we highlighted some very interesting comments that Jeff Luhnow gave as part of an interview with Matt Thomas on 790 AM KBME.  He discussed playing time concerns in general, saying:

"It's tough. Guys like Marwin, Marisnick & Gattis all do better with regular time but can we afford to give them the time to get into a rhythm and at who's expense? It's a conversation AJ has daily with his staff. He's communicating frequently with the players. They'll get frustrated. AJ is going with the guys he thinks who gives us the best chance on any given night and that's all you can ask."

Those comments indicate that a major league roster logjam - long-billed as a "good problem to have" - might be costing certain of our more routine-based players opportunities to get into a groove.  If the thinking holds true - and that's a legitimate "if", there's a fair amount of conjecture here - then a move involving the departure (one way or another) of a Major League hitter who is struggling might begin to make a little sense.  It's still pretty early, but it could be inferred that way.

Which brings us to another Luhnow quote from the piece.  When asked about the hot start for top prospect Alex "Bregatron" Bregman in Double-A, Luhnow praised him but quickly shifted the attention to none other than Colin Moran, who is also off to a good start in Triple-A.  Of Moran, Luhnow said:

"We had a discussion. If White did not have the spring he had, there would have been a legitimate discussion about Valbuena at 1B and Moran at 3B to open the year. Who knows, we'll see how it goes. One injury or slump and Moran could very well be up here. He's on my shortlist."

This implies a previously-unknown (or at least unconfirmed) level of confidence in the Major League readiness of Moran, and certainly engenders itself to some interesting questions surrounding both Tyler White and Luis Valbuena.  As it seems unlikely for the Astros to carry yet another infielder on the roster - unless Jake Marisnick remains in Triple-A - then it would seem that for Moran to make the 25-man roster before September, there would either have to be an injury or someone would have to be removed from the 25-man roster picture.  This doesn't even address potential 40-man roster issues.

All in all, there are certainly a large number of quantifiable assets at third base in the system, and several of them could be quite valuable to other major league teams.  Luis Valbuena, for instance, is not a great hitter, but he does have left handed power as part of his Major League track record and he does play solid defense at three different infield positions.  He's also a free-agent-to-be soon enough, so the commitment from an acquiring team would be minimal - assuming they don't overpay for a rental.  Certainly he'd likely garner a modest, lottery-pick style gambit of a prospect in return, were the Astros to choose to move him.  Tyler White has also drastically improved his own trade stock if the Astros chose to move him, with A.J. Reed looming and other first base options (like Valbuena, if Moran were to be called up) as possibilities in the interim.

A Tyler White trade doesn't look likely right now, don't misunderstand, but there is also a certain logic to it if you look at it from the right angle.  White also probably isn't established enough yet to garner a huge return on his own.

Matt Duffy remains in the system, primarily as a third baseman, and is an excellent candidate to see further playing time (or a plane ticket to a new organization via trade) as well. He has generally struggled early following a promotion to a higher level throughout his career, yet always seems to keep adapting and growing and raking after he chugs through an adjustment period.

He is not widely regarded as a top prospect despite having put up good numbers as a professional and winning the 2015 Pacific Coast League Most Valuable Player Award in Triple-A, even among the staff here at The Crawfish Boxes. However, few are down on him as a player – most just haven’t been blown away by his performances to date, for one reason or another. It’s possible another team is watching him closely and could value him highly in trade, but it may ultimately hold true that he is more valuable down the road as a utility corner infielder and left fielder for the Astros off the bench than he would be in a trade scenario.

Be sure to check back Monday (May 2nd) for Part Six, examining the shortstop situation in Houston and its trade potential!

Again, potential.  At the shortstop position.