Figuring out the mystery third baseman

March, 18, 2009
Are the Astros in the market for a third baseman? From MLB Trade Rumors:

    According to Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle, in the wake of Aaron Boone's announcement this morning that he'll miss the season with a heart condition, Astros GM Ed Wade received a call from a team "informing him they had a third baseman available" for trade.

    It sounds like Wade will entertain the possibility of making a deal, but he first wants to see how prospect Chris Johnson and veteran Geoff Blum will respond to increased playing time. Spring training has been rough on both guys thus far. Johnson, 24, is hitting just .231 this spring with one dinger and six RBI. Blum, 35, is batting .158 with no home runs and just three RBI in 32 at-bats.

    "If we think there's a need at the end (of camp), there's going to be guys available," Wade said Wednesday. "I got a call today from a club that's got a guy that they want to make available so if we have the need. We know what Blum's capable of doing and we like what CJ's shown so far. We'll let them play and see what happens."

If the Astros knew what Blum's capable of doing, he wouldn't be a candidate for anything like regular duty. Over the past four seasons, 25 (at least occasional) third basemen have totaled at least 1,000 plate appearances in the National League. Blum's .304 on-base percentage ranks 23rd, his .383 slugging percentage 22nd, and generally the guys below him are younger with at least some chance to improve.

Granted, Blum seems to be an outstanding defensive third baseman, outstanding enough that he probably does deserve a roster spot somewhere. But it's not easy to win when your third baseman gets out 70 percent of the time.

Meanwhile, Johnson's sole qualification for candidacy is a few good months in the Texas League last season. In the two seasons before that, he was awful, and he was awful again after a promotion to Triple-A. Until he actually hits with some authority in Round Rock, there's simply no reason for us (or Ed Wade) to take him seriously.

I thought it might be fun to guess the identity of the Mystery Available Third Baseman, but reading through the comments under the (above) post, I realized it could be just about anyone, including (but not limited to) Mark Teahen, Adrian Beltre, Chone Figgins, Melvin Mora and Dallas McPherson.

I'm not wild about the Astros' chances this season. Too many out-makers in the lineup, not enough sure things in the rotation. But it seems to me if you're going to bring Pudge Rodriguez aboard, you might as well try to find a third baseman who can actually hit.



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