Gurriel set for utility role in 'post-Marwin world'
HOUSTON -- With versatile Marwin Gonzalez likely moving to a new club in 2019 via free agency, the Astros will try to look internally to fill his shoes, which means a more flexible role for Yuli Gurriel going forward.
Gonzalez was acquired in a trade with the Red Sox after Boston picked up Gonzalez in the Rule 5 Draft only moments after Jeff Luhnow was named Houston's general manager in December 2011. He proved himself to be one of the most versatile players in the team's recent history and was a core member of the 2017 World Series championship club. Last season, the switch-hitter started games at five positions and provided solid defense at all of them.
That's one of the reasons Gonzalez figures to be so highly regarded in free agency this winter and why the Astros are preparing to move into a "post-Marwin world," as Luhnow described it Wednesday during the GM Meetings in Carlsbad, Calif.
"We're looking at different options to add more to our offense," Luhnow said.
In the wake of Lance McCullers's Tommy John surgery, which will keep him out for all of 2019, and the free agency of Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton, the Astros are looking to add starting pitching, as well as fill a void at catcher. And yes, they want to add another bat, which could be an outfielder or a true designated hitter like Nelson Cruz.
Whatever happens, Gurriel will be moved around the infield more next year. He started 99 games at first base for the Astros last season and also played second base, third base and shortstop. The Astros went into last Spring Training planning to use Gurriel in more of a utility role, but he had surgery early in camp to remove the hook of the hamate bone in his left hand.
On the days when Gurriel is playing on the left side of the infield or second base, Tyler White can play first base. Presumably, whichever player Gurriel is spelling at third base (Alex Bregman), shortstop (Carlos Correa) or second base (Jose Altuve) would be the DH on those days.
"With Marwin not in the picture right now, having someone that can spell Altuve at second, can spell Bregman at third and play first, that's pretty big for us," Luhnow said. "In the post-Marwin world, if he doesn't come back to us, [Yuli] becomes more of the utility guy.
"With Bregman and Correa, we have the luxury of two shortstops on the left side of the infield, and if one of them gets hurt, the other one can play that position. Yuli can fill that position, as well. It's a little bit of insurance, but not quite as versatile as Marwin."
Gonzalez played left field for the Astros in the playoffs the past two years, an ability Gurriel can't provide. The Astros have Tony Kemp and Jake Marisnick as outfield options alongside starters George Springer and Josh Reddick, and No. 1 prospect Kyle Tucker will get another shot to lock down the starting left-field job. But don't be surprised to see the Astros add a veteran bat to the outfield mix.
Some of the names to keep an eye on in the free-agent market are Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Brantley and Andrew McCutchen.