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Lefties could solidify Astros' formidable roster

December 18, 2017

Shouldn't the Astros sign Adrian Gonzalez now that he's been released by the Braves? Or Matt Adams? Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda would also be nice fits for an everyday lineup that is heavily right-handed and in need of a designated hitter.Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow has had this very

Shouldn't the Astros sign Adrian Gonzalez now that he's been released by the Braves? Or Matt Adams? Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda would also be nice fits for an everyday lineup that is heavily right-handed and in need of a designated hitter.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow has had this very conversation with his staff as it prepares for the 2018 season. For now, Luhnow said he's comfortable with his roster.
His everyday roster is set, and he's prepared to use the DH position as a revolving door for his catchers, Brian McCann and Evan Gattis, and as an opportunity to give his regulars a break.
When Luhnow signed free-agent relievers Joe Smith and Hector Rondon, both right-handers, last week, he made it clear he could take this roster to Spring Training and feel good.
If he could add a lefty reliever to his bullpen, he'd feel even better. If he hasn't already tried to re-engage the Padres about Brad Hand, he will a time or two before the start of Spring Training.

About that left-handed bat: Luhnow certainly will take a long look at Gonzalez. At the moment, though, another hitter does not seem to be a top priority after a season in which the Astros scored 896 runs, which was 38 more than any other team.
And their .827 OPS against right-handed pitching was 32 points higher than any other team.
On Opening Day, manager A.J. Hinch's lineup probably will have four right-handed hitters -- George Springer, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa -- stacked at the top of the order.
His No. 5 hitter normally would be another righty, first baseman Yuli Gurriel, but he will serve a five-game suspension at the beginning of the season.
If Luhnow could get a veteran left-handed hitter -- Granderson? Duda? -- on a Minor League contract, he might take a look.

But he's also excited about giving Carlos Beltran's at-bats to his internal options. To quote Hall of Fame executive John Schuerholz: "When you have young players ready for the Major Leagues, it's ruinous to your organization not to find playing time, or at least a chance to earn playing time."
Schuerholz meant that bypassing young players who've earned a shot in the big leagues sends a terrible message up and down a Minor League system, not just to players, but to managers, instructors, scouts, etc.
The Astros believe Derek Fisher, Colin Moran, Tony Kemp and A.J. Reed have earned the right to compete for jobs. All are left-handed hitters, and Fisher, Moran and Kemp have done enough in the Minors -- and in limited playing time in the Majors -- to get longer looks.

And there's outfielder Kyle Tucker, the team's top prospect according to MLBPipeline.com.
Tucker was the fifth overall pick of the 2015 Draft -- taken three spots after the Astros got Bregman -- and is ranked the No. 8 overall prospect in baseball.
He'll turn 21 in January and had an .837 OPS in 72 games at Double-A Corpus Christi last season. Because he's only a year removed from Class A ball, and because he hit only .215 in the Arizona Fall League, he will not be in the Major Leagues on Opening Day.

But the Astros will give him playing time in Spring Training to try and gauge on where he is in his development. He could be in Triple-A by midseason with a Major League promotion possible in the second half.
Veteran free agents like Granderson, Gonzalez and Adams may prefer situations in which the door is open for more playing time. They may look at the Astros' young core group and opt for a shot at other clubs.
With lefty Dallas Keuchel and super-utility player Marwin Gonzalez beginning the final year of their contracts, the Astros' roster could be on the threshold of significant change.
But Luhnow has long said that he will look at every possibility in the quest to make his team better. This free-agent market has a couple.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.