A look at the reasons why the Astros traded for Aledmys Diaz.
Most people are shopping for their Thanksgiving meals today. Some people are kids birthday party hopping like me. Others are possibly traveling out of state with the kids being off for a week. That’s other people, Jeff Luhnow is trying to work on deals to improve the Astros. With the winter meetings two weeks away, the hot stove is about to get hot. The Astros struck a deal with the Blue Jays earlier.
With the likely departure of Marwin Gonzalez, the Astros appeared set to use Yuli Gurriel in that semi-super utility role. Gurriel probably can’t play shortstop, but if the need arose, then Alex Bregman could have played in that role. Still, who would have played third/first base would have been the question. Tyler White could play first with Gurriel moving to third could have been an option as well.
However, it was nice having Gonzalez in that role.
The market for Gonzalez is very active at the moment, meaning the price to re-sign him would be on the rise. Having a depth piece in the infield wouldn’t hurt until we see options arise in the minors. If the Astros are to let Gonzalez walk, this symbolizes the value they assign to a role player. Gonzalez was valuable for them because of his position flexibility, but also that he was cheap. So they were looking at the trade market for an upgrade, not the free agent class. This is what we discussed on last week’s Talking Stros, look for trades versus free agent signings. Jeff Passan confirmed this.
Monday, the Astros have to protect certain players from the Rule 5 draft. Trent Thornton was one of those players, we will discuss that group in a separate article. If the Astros did not add Thornton to the 40-man roster, a team could have picked him up via the Rule 5 draft. Via the Astros, Luhnow said there has been a lot of trade interest in Thornton, so he would have likely been claimed. Like we saw with Ramon Laureano, they made a deal to get something for him.
The Astros made a deal mid-morning in Saturday that will have a lasting effect for the next four years. They make a trade for Aledmys Diaz, a shortstop/third baseman from the Blue Jays. This news was broken by Chandler Rome and others. They do give up an MLB ready arm in Thornton, but that is a position of depth for the team at Triple-A.
This is also what Luhnow mentioned after the trade. With Rogelio Armenteros, Brady Rodgers, Dean Deetz, and Josh James in fold, then Thornton was somewhat expendable. We can reevaluate the deal later in terms of giving him up, but you have to give up something to get something. The Astros now have team control through 2022 via Baseball-Reference. He is in his final season before he is arbitration eligible.
While some may question his defense, his bat is legit. The 28-year-old Diaz batter .263 with 18 homers and 55 RBI in 2018. Diaz only struck out 62 times in 422 at-bats in 2018. With only three years of MLB experience, he brings a lot of talent to Houston after breaking out with the Cardinals in 2016. Look at Diaz as a cheap option to replace Gonzalez. Luhnow did say that he could play multiple positions, even a little left field.
Did I just say that? You can’t replace a player like Gonzalez who carried the Astros offense in the ALDS. Gonzalez became a big part of the team's culture, with his position flexibility and leadership. Unlike Gonzalez, Diaz is not a switch hitter and has not played much outfield, but Tony Kemp can. This move also rules out the need to bring Gonzalez back. Will it pay off? Only time will tell, but it looks good at the moment.