HOUSTON -- The Astros appear to have found a replacement for free-agent infielder Marwin Gonzalez by completing a trade on Saturday to acquire infielder Aledmys Diaz from the Blue Jays in exchange for Minor League right-hander Trent Thornton.Diaz, an All-Star with the Cardinals two years ago, has played primarily shortstop
HOUSTON -- The Astros appear to have found a replacement for free-agent infielder Marwin Gonzalez by completing a trade on Saturday to acquire infielder Aledmys Diaz from the Blue Jays in exchange for Minor League right-hander Trent Thornton.
Diaz, an All-Star with the Cardinals two years ago, has played primarily shortstop but has also spent significant time at third base, in addition to making a few appearances in left field and at second base. In 130 games for the Blue Jays last season, he hit .263 with 26 doubles, 18 homers, 55 RBIs and a .756 OPS.
"He's got some versatility, got some power and can do a lot of things," Astros president of baseball operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "It seems like it's an opportunity for us to improve our team. We're dipping into prospect depth, but if there's one area we probably have some surplus, it's in the upper-level pitching area."
Diaz, 28, and fellow Cuban, Yuli Gurriel, figure to move around the infield next season -- providing the versatility Gonzalez did. Gonzalez, who played all four infield spots and left field, is a free agent and is expected to play elsewhere next season. Diaz gives the Astros three players who can play shortstop, including starter Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman.
"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," Luhnow said. "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."
A native of Santa Clara, Cuba, Diaz made the National League All-Star team as a rookie in 2016, batting .300 with 28 doubles, 17 homers, 65 RBIs and an .879 OPS in 111 games for the Cardinals. He was traded to the Blue Jays following the '17 campaign.
Luhnow said several clubs inquired about Thornton throughout last season. A fifth-round Draft pick in 2015, he went 9-8 with a 4.42 ERA in 24 games (22 starts) for Triple-A Fresno this season. He also fanned 20 batters and allowed four walks in 15 2/3 innings for Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League.
Thornton was among the players who needed to be added to the Astros' 40-man roster by Tuesday or risk being lost in next month's Rule 5 Draft. Houston's 40-man roster is at 35 players, which means it will add more Minor League players early next week. Pitchers Rogelio Armenteros and Riley Ferrell and catcher Garrett Stubbs are among those who could be added.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow <ahref="http: twitter.com/brianmctaggart"="">@brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.</ahref="http:>