Blue Jays: Aledmys Diaz makes a lot of sense as next year’s utility man

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 5: Aledmys Diaz #1 of the Toronto Blue Jays is congratulated by Lourdes Gurriel Jr. #13 and Kendrys Morales #8 after hitting a three-run home run in the first inning during MLB game action against the Tampa Bay Rays at Rogers Centre on September 5, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 5: Aledmys Diaz #1 of the Toronto Blue Jays is congratulated by Lourdes Gurriel Jr. #13 and Kendrys Morales #8 after hitting a three-run home run in the first inning during MLB game action against the Tampa Bay Rays at Rogers Centre on September 5, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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While there could be a few veterans on the move this offseason, Aledmys Diaz is a player that makes a lot of sense to hang on to, likely as a utility man.

It’s hard not to look ahead to next year, even if the Blue Jays still have a few weeks of baseball left in the 2018 calendar.

Thankfully we’re getting a glimpse into what Blue Jays should be excited about for next year and beyond with players like Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Danny Jansen, Ryan Borucki, and several more making strong impressions in August and September this year. The talent coming behind them is well documented as well, so the future is pretty bright for the Blue Jays.

As far as the immediate future is concerned for the team though, there are a lot of unanswered questions. We know that it’s a near certainty that John Gibbons is rounding out his time in Toronto and that will have a big effect on day to day operations around the club. There are also rumours swirling around President and CEO, Mark Shapiro, so whether there is anything to truth to the stories will come out sooner than later.

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Another mystery for the team will be around who will make up the 2019 roster. We know many of the names that we can expect to see back, but how that playing time will be divided up remains a mystery. The reality for the Blue Jays as well is that they’ve got too many talented infielders that deserve regular playing time, and there’s a good chance they’re going to have to trade away one or two of them this winter.

If we’re looking at options at third, second, first base, and shortstop, we’re talking about a list that includes Justin Smoak, Devon Travis, Yangervis Solarte, Brandon Drury, Aledmys Diaz, Troy Tulowitzki, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (it’s inevitable early in the season), Gurriel Jr, and also the possibility that Russell Martin could see significant time at third. That’s not even including guys like Bo Bichette who could demand a call-up as the season wears on as well, or the September sensation that is Rowdy Tellez.

Assuming Shapiro and Atkins are still at the helm this winter, they are going to have to decide how they want their infield to look, and likely have to choose a player or two to send packing. The assumption is that there will be regular playing time for Guerrero, Gurriel, Smoak, and probably Travis as well, which would round out the infield for the most part. If Tulowitzki is healthy it complicates things, and it’s possible that Drury gets some playing time in an outfield corner as well.

That likely leaves out Solarte, who I would peg as the top trade candidate of the group anyway, but it also leaves Aledmys Diaz out of the picture a fair bit. That said, I think he’s the guy that I would be looking to hang on to for a utility position if I were manning the ship these days, and I feel like there are plenty of reasons why he’s the right fit.

In my mind Gurriel has to be a regular starter, and I don’t see how the Blue Jays can make him into a super-utility type when he’s this talented. I would make him the everyday shortstop given the makeup of the rest of the roster, and his skillset. However, Diaz is a great backup for him at short, something that neither Drury nor Solarte can reliably do. It would be easier to take the focus off of the position if you could rely on Tulowitzki being healthy, but that’s a fool’s gamble at this stage, even if I do still like the guy.

Diaz also provides depth at second and third base, showing in recent weeks that he’s more than capable of manning of the hot corner. He’s also proven to be a power threat from an up the middle position, and that ability could prove useful late in games as a pinch hitter.

Lastly, he’s also pretty cheap and cost controllable going forward. He’s got one more year at two million in 2019 before he’s got three years of arbitration eligibility according to spotrac.com. There may come a time when his salary is higher than his value to the Blue Jays, but that likely won’t happen for at least a couple more years.

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Add it all up and I like him a lot as the utility guy on the roster next season. There will be at least one catcher on the bench (if not two, depending on how they use Martin, and what they do with Luke Maile and/or Reese McGuire), and at least one outfielder as well. Drury likely makes the team as an IF/OF option, leaving the need for a true shortstop and back-up infielder on the roster. To me, Diaz fits that description as well as anyone for his surprisingly solid performance this season.

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