Posted on December 2, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Toronto Blue Jays have made a move to address what has been a paper thin infield in recent years. Late Friday night, the Blue Jays acquired shortstop Aledmys Diaz from the St. Louis Cardinals for outfield prospect J.B. Woodman. Diaz won’t necessarily step into a starting role for the Blue Jays. However, the trade addresses one of Toronto’s top priorities heading into the offseason, which was adding depth to their infield
“Our priority is complementing our infield in some way with versatility,” Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins said last month at the GM Meetings. “Someone not that can just play when needed, but someone who could potentially get 600 plate appearances across our infield in some form or fashion.”
Diaz would seem to fit that description perfectly. However, he’s had quite a rollercoaster of a career, so he’s far from a sure thing. The Cardinals originally signed him to a four-year, $8 million contract in 2014 but actually designated him for assignment midway through the 2015 season because of his poor performance in the minors. He went unclaimed and was able to turn things around after that.
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In 2016, Diaz enjoyed a breakout season, hitting .300 with an OPS of .879. He became the Cardinals’ everyday shortstop and was named to the all-star team. The Cardinals planned on him being their starting shortstop in 2017 and beyond. However, Diaz struggled the first half of the season and was sent to triple-A at the end of June. He wasn’t recalled until the end of September, with rookie Paul DeJong taking over as the starting shortstop in St. Louis.
The emergence of DeJong last year has made Diaz expendable for the Cardinals. The trade to Toronto could put Diaz in a better position. But it doesn’t necessarily guarantee him a starting job, which remains his ultimate goal.
“I want to be an everyday player in the big leagues,” says Diaz. “That’s why I wanted to get work at second base and third base. It gives me more options, and hopefully an organization will give me a chance to play every day. That’s what I want to do.”
The Blue Jays are obviously set on the left side of the infield with Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson. Toronto also has Devon Travis penciled in as their everyday second baseman. Diaz will likely be looked at as the primary backup at all three positions. The silver lining for Diaz is how injury plagued Travis has been in recent years.
Travis has battled both shoulder and knee problems over the past three seasons. Over those three seasons, Travis has only appeared in 213 games. He’s also seen his production dip each year. Not having a suitable backup at second base has hurt Toronto the past three seasons. The Blue Jays hope that Diaz can fill-in as the everyday second baseman in case Travis continues to struggle with injuries. Diaz could also be an option at third base if Donaldson leaves in free agency next winter.
Obviously, this isn’t a major trade that’s going to move the needle much for the Blue Jays. But it does address a problem that Toronto has had in recent years. The Blue Jays also gave up very little to take a chance on a player who was an all-star in 2016 so there is some definite upside to acquiring Diaz from the Cardinals.