The Astros announced that they have designated third baseman Matt Dominguez for assignment in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for top prospect Carlos Correa, whose promotion is now official.
It’s been a swift fall for Dominguez, who just one year ago was rumored to have been offered an extension worth roughly $14.5MM over five years (plus two option years for the Astros). He’s spent the entire season in Triple-A so far after serving as Houston’s regular third baseman for all of 2013-14 and much of the 2012 season as well.
Dominguez’s best season came in 2013 when he batted .241/.286/.403 with 21 homers in 152 games. Despite the lackluster OBP, Dominguez rated out well in terms of Defensive Runs Saved, leading to a 2.2 rWAR season. (Fangraphs’ version of WAR, which uses UZR in its equation, rated him at just shy of one WAR.) Dominguez’s glove has long drawn positive reviews from scouts, and he clearly has some power in his bat, as evidenced by the .168 isolated power (slugging minus batting average) mark that he posted from 2012-13.
Dominguez hit 16 home runs last year, but he saw his walk rate dip even further while his strikeout rate climbed to almost 21 percent. The resulting .215/.256/.330 batting line was enough that the Astros saw fit to acquire Luis Valbuena and sign Jed Lowrie to serve as upgrades on the left side of the infield. So far in Triple, Dominguez is batting .251/.289/.371.
Despite the struggles, Dominguez is still just 25 years of age. The former first-round pick won’t turn 26 until late August, and if a light were to turn on with another club, Dominguez could be controlled through at least the 2018 season. In fact, that number will soon jump to 2019. Dominguez entered the year with two years, 62 days of service, meaning he’d have needed 110 days of service this year to reach the three-year mark. However, there are just 119 days of the regular season remaining, so it seems unlikely that he’ll end up reaching that mark.
Because of his youth, big league track record, remaining remaining minor league options and upside, I’d personally be surprised to see Dominguez clear waivers. More likely, it seems that the Astros may try to trade him to a team in need of some help at the hot corner. The Giants have had some struggles at third base this season, as have the Tigers, White Sox and Brewers. The Indians just demoted Lonnie Chisenhall to Triple-A, though they may prefer to give Giovanny Urshela a tryout before moving on to other options.
Speculating a bit further, the Angels were said to be seeking a controllable young third baseman this winter, and while they acquired Kyle Kubitza from the Braves to give them an option, it’s at least possible that Dominguez intrigues them. And, in last year’s leak of trade notes from the Astros, the Marlins were said to have expressed interest in a trade for Dominguez, though Miami does have Martin Prado at the position now.