Astros make good with small deal

added 3/12/2002 by Todd Brody

Over and over again, we heard that one of the priorities for the Astros during this offseason was to obtain a left-handed third-baseman. When pressed, Gerry Hunsicker stated that the team was considering a platoon situation at third. Morgan Ensberg would bat against right-handed hitters, the lefty would face the other side.

In a move that comes somewhat as a surprise, 610 reports a trade between the Astros and the Expos - Chris Truby in exchange for Geoff Blum. First, let me say that it is unclear that this move is the Astros' attempt to meet their offseason goal. While it is true that Blum has played a lot at third and is a switch-hitter, he is a much better hitter from the right side of the plate (RH slg.% .492; LH slg.% .388). Consequently, I believe it doubtful that the Astros intend to platoon Blum with Ensberg.

More likely, this move reflects the managerial philosophy of Jimy Williams, who covets players that can are comfortable at a number of positions. Blum has played every infield position except for catcher and has also spent some time in left field. Blum is certainly more flexible than Truby in that regard, despite Truby's recent foray at first. And Blum, along with Jose Vizcaino gives Williams endless possibilities off the bench.

So what does this mean for the season? Well, first of all, congratulations to Ensberg who, de facto, has been named the every day third baseman. Beyond that, it makes the Astros' infield very crowded. Assuming that Adam Everett and Ensberg are the starting left-handed side of the infield, this move essentially means that Keith Ginter is back at New Orleans, despite a very nice pre-season where he leads the team in home runs and RBIs and is close to the top in hits. Either that, or the Astros are planning on trading Julio Lugo, which always remains a possibility, particularly since ESPN has reported that suitors are lining up for Lugo's services.

On balance, I think that this trade was smart. Like many Astros' fans, I never wanted to see Truby at the major league level again. Essentially, the Astros traded a backup third-baseman with limited upside, for a switch-hitting infielder who has shown glimpses of power and can play everywhere competently. Adam Everett has worn Bill Spiers's jersey as a tribute this pre-season to one of the greatest bench players the Astros have ever had. The move today is Gerry Hunsicker's attempt to find the next Spiers. Nice work.

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