Following Josh Hader’s introductory press conference, Dana Brown made it clear that the Astros could use another left-handed bat to help bolster the roster. An outfielder was noted as the preferred position for this bat, with at least some speed being a possible prerequisite.
Dana Brown on maybe adding a LH bat: "If we could somehow get a left-handed bat, preferably an outfielder with some speed, that type of package we'll pounce on it. Make no mistake, our club is really good."— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) January 22, 2024
Considering how the club’s player payroll is nearing the second threshold of $257 million, it didn’t seem like Brown was hinting at a big splash, notably Cody Bellinger, who does fit the earlier description. Instead, it felt like the general manager was angling for a a more cost-effective option as an insurance policy or even perhaps a prospect — Jacob Melton, Will Wagner, Joey Loperfido, etc. — to possibly assume that role. While it is certainly possible for the latter scenario to unfold, it doesn’t hurt to obtain a policy on the side to help cover your bases.
Well, Brown did secure his insurance policy on Wednesday, acquiring infielder/outfielder Trey Cabbage from the Angels for minor league right-hander Carlos Espinosa.
The Houston Astros have acquired IF/OF Trey Cabbage from the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for RHP Carlos Espinosa.— Houston Astros (@astros) January 31, 2024
Cabbage, now entering his age-27 season, was recently designated for assignment by the Angels last weekend. In return, the Astros sent the 22-year-old Espinosa back to Los Angeles, in addition to designating Declan Cronin, recently claimed off waivers from the White Sox, to make room for Cabbage on the 40-man roster.
At first glance, Cabbage’s brief time in the majors last season — .208/.232/.321 in 56 plate appearances — didn’t leave a lasting impression, but his minor league numbers in Salt Lake City — .306/.379/.596 in 474 plate appearances — certainly did. He was one of the best hitters in the PCL last season, posting a 128 wRC+. Cabbage was also only one of two hitters in all of minor league ball to steal 30 bases and hit 30 home runs. While the PCL does inflate power numbers, the former Los Angeles prospect has demonstrated some intriguing offensive upside, with 58 home runs combined since 2021 when he was a Twins farmhand. We’ve already seen glimpses of that power converting at the major league level with the Angels, albeit in a small sample. It is worth noting that Cabbage did post a 38.2% opposite field rate last season compared to a 32.1% pull rate.
Other than Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker, the Astros have become increasingly heavy on right-handed bats. Michael Brantely alleviated some of that lineup imbalance, but with his subsequent injury and retirement, the club has yet to find a suitable replacement to help break up the current monotony, especially lower in the order. Cabbage, of course, is far from a guarantee to become a viable major league hitter, especially if his strikeout tendencies remain (30% strikeout rate in 2023, led the PCL). There is a reason why the Astros are his third major league organization since 2021.
With that said, Cabbage fulfills a need, at least from an organization depth point of view. While the likes of Melton, Wagner, and Loperfido have potential, Cabbage does provide a safety net in case on those prospects aren’t Major League ready, at least to start the season. If his power does convert against big league pitching, in addition to his speed and positional versatility, there is a chance we’ll see the left-handed hitter on the active roster at some point in 2024.