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With Diaz trade, Astros get a cheaper version of Marwin Gonzalez

Aledmys Diaz was an important pickup for the Astros. Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

At first glance when you see the Astros trading a prospect for a shortstop, Astros fans start wondering what is wrong with Carlos Correa and what is going on with thier team? Is his back or thumb so bad that he may need surgery? Are they thinking of trading him so that Alex Bregman can take over? Thankfully neither of those things are behind this savy baseball move orchestrated by GM Jeff Luhnow. The fact of the matter is, Marwin Gonzalez is probably going to get a big offer from another team and the Astros are not going to match it. With that in mind, the team went out and found his replacement and when I say he is the spitting image of Marwin, I'm actually not kidding.

Aledmys Diaz is a 28-year-old shortstop by trade, but he can play third base, second base and he can play the outfield as well. Sound like anyone else you know and have grown to love? Aside from not yet trying his hand at first base, Diaz is a mirror image of Marwin. He is younger, has similar stats and is going to be far cheaper than Gonzalez, who is in the process of talking to teams and waiting for proposals in free agency. Diaz is 6'1" and 195 pounds, while Gonzales is thw same height and 10 pounds heavier. The similarities don't end there if you start comparing offensive stats over the past season as Diaz average was .263 while Marwin was at .247. The Blue Jays infielder had two more home runs, 13 fewer RBI's and a whole spread sheet full of offensive and defensive ratings and statistics that fluctuate giving each player slight advantages. Take a look at this side by side comparrison of the two players done by Devan Fink, Baseball writer for SB Nation's Beyond the Box Score:

The biggest key is that Diaz only made $2 million dollars last year and is under team control. Jeff Luhnow told a pool of reporters that Diaz "...Has got some versatility, got some power and can do a lot of things.  He went on to say, "It seems like it's an opportunity for us to improve our team. He can play short, he can play second, he can play a little bit of left, can play third. This is a guy about as versatile as any of the other guys on our roster. He's a good hitter, and we think he can be better. He's still coming into his prime." In other words, welcome to H-town, Marwin Jr.

It's a foregone conclusion that barring some incredible hometown discount, Marwin is going to break the bank and hit the jackpot in free agency and no Astros fan should begrudge him for cashing in. It's better to have had him and reaped the benfits of his outstanding play for your team than to never have had him at all. From his everyday availability and versatility to his propensity to come up big in the biggest moments, Marwin is and was a pro's pro for manager A.J. Hinch and the Astros. Who will ever forget his home run in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the World Series off Kenley Jansen that tied the game and change the complexion of the entire series? He was a key reason the team brought home Houston's first ever World Series title. For that alone he should be an Astros hero for life, regardless if he ever puts on a Houston uniform again and if he doesn't, at least there is hope that the team may have his replacement ready to go in 2019. 

 

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These next six games will be very telling. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

Houston has six games left in the 2022 regular season, two three-game series in which they need just one more win, or a Yankees loss, to secure the top seed for the AL side of the postseason bracket. They've accomplished what they set out to do over the 162-game drudge that is the regular season, so you're likely to see them use the opportunity to get some players off their feet in the remaining games.

Even so, having one of the best teams means that while putting out a lineup with some starters missing, they can still beat most teams on any given day. So then, what could that mean for the teams still vying for postseason spots or positioning in the remaining games?

Affecting the NL playoffs

It's a relatively sure bet that if they haven't locked up that top seed by the time they enter the final three games, they will before that last series is over. That means that when the Phillies come to Minute Maid Park to close out the season next week, Philadelphia will have much higher stakes in those games than Houston.

Under the expanded playoff format starting this season, the two best teams in each league receive a bye, while the remaining four teams square off in a Wild Card series, with all those games taking place at the better seed's stadium. That means teams will be very motivated to secure their best Wild Card positioning.

As of now, the Phillies hold just a half-game lead over the Brewers for the third and final Wild Card spot for the National League. Things could change this weekend, but whether they still lead or have fallen back and have ground to makeup, the games will matter to them against the Astros.

They also sit 2.5 games behind the Padres, meaning that Philadelphia could potentially be looking at a chance to jump into the second Wild Card spot. However, it's questionable if that's an envious position or not. With the juggernaut battle between the Mets and Braves coming down to the wire, with one team winning the NL East and a first-round bye and the other starting with home-field advantage in a Wild Card series, whoever gets the second Wild Card spot is going to be heading to face a really tough, and potentially angry, team on the road.

It will make things interesting for the Phillies when they face the Astros. They could be playing for their playoff lives or jockeying for position. Either way, the games will be meaningful.

Affecting the AL playoffs

There's a similar scenario at play for the American League side of things with the Astros' three-game series against the Rays this weekend. Just like the Phillies, the Rays enter the weekend holding on to the third and final spot in the AL Wild Card race.

Tampa Bay is only 0.5 games back of the Mariners for the second spot and two games back of the Blue Jays for the first Wild Card spot. Farther behind, the Orioles still have a chance for something crazy to happen, sitting five games behind.

So based on the result of their series with the Astros and how the other teams fare this weekend and in the final stretch of games, the Rays have a range of outcomes that could cause havoc in the AL bracket. They could end up taking the top Wild Card spot and hosting a series, traveling to face the Blue Jays, Mariners, or Guardians, or, less likely, missing the playoffs altogether.

This variance in positioning could have ramifications for the Astros directly in the ALDS round as well. The Astros are likely to be favored regardless of the three potential teams they face; however, some matchups would make things easier.

Houston went 2-4 against the Blue Jays this year and are currently up 3-0 on the Rays with the three games remaining in the season series. And while the Astros took the season series 12-7 against division-rival Seattle, that could give the Mariners all the more reason to be ultra-motivated for the ALDS if they faced the Astros.

So, while the Astros may not have any direct milestones to play for other than locking up their top seed, these remaining six games will have plenty of storylines and drama to follow for them and their opponent.

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