Posted on November 17, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
After falling short in the ALCS this past season, the Houston Astros could be poised for some major moves this winter. However, they’ve started their offseason by improving the overall depth on their roster. On Saturday, the Astros agreed to a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays for versatile infielder Aledmys Diaz. In exchange, the Blue Jays have received pitching prospect Trent Thornton.
“We’re so early in the offseason, it’s hard to really say what our final roster is and who’s going to play where,” Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said of the trade. “There’s still plenty of potential moves to come. But this is a guy we felt — both offensively and defensively, and the age and profile — really fit well with our team.”
The 28-year old Diaz has had a rollercoaster of a career. In 2015, he was designated for assignment by the Cardinals and taken off the 40-man roster while still in the minors. However, Diaz got a chance with the Cardinals in 2016 and ended up being an all-star that season. But he struggled the following year and ended up losing his job at shortstop to Paul DeJong.
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Last offseason, the Cardinals shipped him off to the Blue Jays. In 130 games with Toronto, Diaz hit .263 with a career-high 18 home runs, helping give him an OPS of .756. He started 90 games for the Blue Jays at shortstop, the most on the team. But he also expanded his defensive versatility by starting 30 games at third base. That sudden burst of power and the ability to play multiple positions is what has made Diaz attractive to the Astros.
“He’s got some versatility, got some power and can do a lot of things,” said Luhnow. “It seems like it’s an opportunity for us to improve our team.”
With both Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa spending time on the DL this past season, adding a middle infielder was something the Astros had to do this offseason. The Astros are expected to lose Marwin Gonzalez in free agency this winter. In the past, Gonzalez has been a viable backup at nearly every position. Diaz will now give the Astros a serviceable backup for at least two or three infield positions.
As for the Blue Jays, they appear to be overloaded with infielders at the moment. Troy Tulowitzki, Devon Travis, Brandon Drury, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. are all infield options. Toronto also has young players like Richard Urena, Bo Bichette, and Vlad Guerrero Jr. All three are top prospects who could take up spots on the infield within the next year. At the same time, Luhnow believed that the Astros could afford to lose a pitching prospect like Thornton in order to acquire Diaz.
Thornton was Houston’s no. 25 prospect, according to MLB.com. He spent all of 2018 in triple-A, going 9-8 with a 4.42 ERA, so he’s close to a finished product. Whether his future is in the rotation or the bullpen remains to be seen. Either way, he should contribute to Toronto’s pitching staff in 2019.
In the end, this trade makes sense for both teams. The Blue Jays didn’t need Diaz, making him a good trade chip. Meanwhile, with the Astros expected to lose Gonzalez in free agency, they add a player with some pop offensively and some much-needed defensive versatility. Adding Diaz doesn’t move the needle much for Houston, but it’s a move they needed to make that could pay off in the long run.