Most valuable? Most difficult to replace? Most sought after? Untouchables? Available?
Houston has a long list of players that other teams covet. There are some that could be pried loose and others who aren’t going anywhere. But which players are the most coveted and which ones might be available are probably in the eye of the particular beholder or evaluator.
For example, would George Springer be easier to replace than Jose Altuve? Will Alex Bregman eventually be better than all the current Astros’ stars? Would the Astros still be a major contender if Carlos Correa was traded?
Some of these issues have been discussed or at least danced around in recent weeks, but here’s an exercise for you today. Without trying to name an MVP for Houston, let’s look at it a different way. Who is the most integral and important to the team? That also involves how easy it would be to replace that player, who perhaps is waiting in the wings and what would that player bring to the organization five years from now?
With those criteria, let’s rank the most integral position players. I’ve given several player profiles here who are considered part of the Astros’ core or nucleus. For this exercise, we’ll use only players who have touched the major leagues and whose names have been bandied about to one degree or another this winter.
Springer. 27. Under team control through 2021.
Most oft spoken of as the odd man out or first mentioned in trade rumors. He’s rarely considered by fans as untouchable. Rather, many say they’d be okay giving him up for a TOR pitcher. In many respects, he is the reincarnation of Hunter Pence. Speedy, good bat, some power and good glove. While he’s probably never really received the respect due him, he may well be one of the key keys to the Astros’ success in the next few years.
Yes, he would be easier to replace than the so-called skill positions that Altuve and Correa play, but his versatility and consistent production is also among the elite in the American League.
Question: Now that he is moving to his “home” in center field, will his production increase, much like Evan Gattis when he catches?
Correa. 22. First eligible for arbitration after 2019 season.
There is no ceiling for this #1 draft choice. However, because expectations and predictions have been so high, if he doesn’t hit .300 with 30 HRs and 30 stolen bases, he may be considered an under achiever.
In only a year and a half, he has become perhaps the best all around shortstop in the game and should develop into a regular 20/20 player and perhaps even touch 30/30 occasionally. He plays quietly enough that he could play in Altuve’s shadow for a few more years.
Altuve. 26. Signed through 2019.
Altuve is arguably the most valuable player for the Astros. He’s been with the team longer, he’s won more awards, he hits for power and average and he’s held down a critical up-the-middle position for nearly six years (yes, six years, can you believe it?). The four-time All Star and regular mention in MVP voting is signed through 2019 at ridiculous club-friendly numbers, but it’s reasonable to conclude he’ll test free agency since Scott Boras is at the helm of his stardom.
With Correa, Gurriel and Bregman not entirely established and Springer often the brunt of trade rumors, Altuve is clearly the face of the organization and the most entrenched. For now.
But there are other options, though you can argue Altuve would be the most difficult to replace. Tony Kemp and Marwin Gonzalez are behind Altuve on the depth chart, but Bregman would be the likely replacement if Altuve were moved or moved on.
Question: Do the Astros eventually trade him for a haul at the right time or run the risk of losing him with Scott Boras running the show?
Bregman. 22. First eligible for arbitration after 2020 season.
Bregman can be considered the ace in the hole or the unknown quantity. Every sign — from college to his meteoric rise through the minors — points to stardom. He adjusted to a new position seamlessly and hit for average and power at every level along the way. With Altuve and Bregman hitting 1-2 (yes, yes, I know), they would provide one of the best OBP tandems in the game.
But while is still largely unproven at the MLB level, he has been the most-often mentioned name in trade efforts this winter. Teams apparently have insisted on the talented former LSU shortstop more often than even Springer in trade scenarios.
Frankly, he could surpass all of the above and become the face of the organization by the end of the decade.
Question: Can the Astros resist the trade calls long enough for Bregman to develop into the league elite like that Springer and Altuve have become?
Yulieski Gurriel. 32. Signed through 2020.
I include him only because of the long-term contract and he appears to be important to the immediate future of the Astros. He hit for power and average pre-MLB, and he may be the first base answer the Astros have been searching for since Lance Berkman left.
However, in this group, it’s likely he would be the first to go if Luhnow had to put a trade together.
Question: At 32, can Gurriel settle into a lineup where he isn’t the star in a position he’s unaccustomed to?
Okay, enjoy the exercise. Just to be clear, here are some questions to help you reach conclusions. Rank the above in the order per each question.
- Which player would be missed most if they were traded?
- Which player would be the most difficult to replace?
- Production notwithstanding, which player is most integral to the success of the team in 2017?
- Which player is most likely to have a Hall of Fame career?
- Which of the above players has the highest ceiling?
- Which is most likely to be traded first?