KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Brett Wallace came to the Astros as a highly regarded prospect in 2010, but after four years of attempting to establish himself at the Major League level, his run with the club came to an end on Wednesday. The Astros, faced with a glut of options at first base, gave Wallace his unconditional release.
"He's been a big part of this organization for the last four years, but as we looked down the road, we didn't see him fitting him at the big league level, and it was even tough to find a regular role for him in Triple-A," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "We figured it was early enough in Spring Training where his best chance to catch on with another club is now, rather than waiting any longer.
"So we wish him the best. And he's been a hard worker, he's done everything we've asked him to do. But as an organization, we have a lot of talent, and there's going be tough decisions that are going come up. This wasn't the first one and it won't be the last one, but it's definitely a tough day."
Houston had designated Wallace for assignment on Feb. 6, but the 27-year-old cleared waivers and was outrighted off the 40-man roster. As it turned out, the reunion was only temporary.
Houston already had Chris Carter, Marc Krauss and prospect Jon Singleton as options at first, then added Jesus Guzman in an offseason trade with the Padres.
"The only thing that's happened is since we've been here [at Spring Training], we've gotten a chance to get to know Guzman," Luhnow said. "Marc Krauss has played very well, not only offensively, but defensively he seems capable of handling first base. So when you look at all of our options, I think we learned more about some of the alternatives, and it made us comfortable that [Wallace] wasn't going to be a fit."
Manager Bo Porter also specifically mentioned the play of Krauss, who entered Wednesday hitting .529 this spring, with two doubles and two homers. Porter described the first-base competition as "still open" and said the Astros want to make sure there are enough at-bats to go around, leaving few for Wallace.
"It was getting real thin," Porter said. "So we made that decision, and we feel it was the best decision for him as well to try to latch on with another team."
The Cardinals made Wallace the 13th overall pick of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, then sent him to the A's in the Matt Holliday trade in '09. That winter, he was sent to Toronto in another deal. The Blue Jays then flipped him to Houston in July 2010 for Anthony Gose.
Wallace was renowned for his bat coming out of Arizona State and has hit .309 with an .882 OPS in the Minors. But his offense never clicked at the highest level. He hit .222/.296/.319 in 51 games as a rookie in 2010 and spent the past three seasons bouncing back and forth between the Astros and Triple-A.
Last year, in what turned out to be his last opportunity to stick with Houston, he hit .221/.284/.431 with 13 home runs and 36 RBIs in 285 plate appearances. This spring, he was 2-for-14 with eight strikeouts.
"First of all, he's a great individual and a hard worker and a fantastic person," said Luhnow, who was the Cardinals' vice president of scouting and player development from 2006 until the Astros hired him in December 2011. "He's always done exceptionally well in Triple-A, and guys with that kind of track record in Triple-A tend to do well at the big league level. He hasn't been able to sustain success at the big league level yet, but I do believe he has the potential to be a big league player. It just hasn't been fully realized yet.
"I do wish him the best. I root for all the guys I draft over the years, unless they're playing us, and I'll continue to root for Brett."