With the Washington Nationals still looking to improve their bench, could Luis Valbuena be an option?
There are 40 days left until the Washington Nationals pitchers and catchers report to spring training in West Palm Beach. The bench is still a priority for the Nats as they look to round out their roster. There are many free agents out there that can provide power off the bench, but one name to keep an eye on is infielder Luis Valbuena.
Last season, Valbuena played in 90 games for the Houston Astros. During those 90 games, he had a slash line of .260/.357/.409 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI’s. The 31-year-old has hit ten or more home runs in four consecutive seasons with the Cubs and Astros.
Valbuena’s season was cut short after July 26 because of a right hamstring injury. During the fist half of the season, he was fifth on the team in home runs and RBI’s and second in slugging percentage (.474). The only Astro who had a higher slugging percentage than him was Jose Altuve (.524), who finished third in the American League MVP voting.
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The Washington Nationals aren’t in need of a starting third baseman since they have Anthony Rendon, but they could always use a reliable backup. Valbuena has played mainly third base during his career, but he has also played a few games at second base and first base.
But, would Valbuena be a good fit as a bench option? In his career, he has had 97 at-bats as a pinch-hitter and has not hit one home run (according to Baseball Reference). The Washington Nationals do have a couple of switch-hitters (Wilmer Difo and Jose Lobaton) on the bench, but their only other true left-handed power bat on the bench is Clint Robinson.
When you look at Valbuena’s defense, he isn’t the greatest at third base, but he has made small improvements. Back in 2014, he had -10 defensive runs saved with the Cubs. In each of the last two seasons, he had -1 run saved with Houston. Those stats are courtesy of Fangraphs.
If the cost for Valbuena ended up going down, I could see the Washington Nationals going after him. However, I think their bigger bench priority right now should be to re-sign Stephen Drew because of the versatility at the middle infield spots. Plus, they could use a veteran to backup Trea Turner at shortstop.
While Valbuena would be a fit for the Washington Nationals, he would probably sign with a team that is going to give him a chance to start at third base on a regular basis. The Nats won’t do that, so I wouldn’t expect Valbuena to be wearing a curly W uniform in 2017.