Let’s forget about Ryan Goins for a second.
Most Blue Jays fans are aware of how much Goins meant to the team. Despite his love/hate status with the fans, he meant a ton to the Blue Jays. All you have to do is look at this tweet.
There’s plenty to say about this tweet. You could tackle why Marcus Stroman believes he should be told about a minor roster move, or alternatively, you could just analyze it. Let’s do the latter and just note that Stroman really doesn’t appreciate losing Ryan Goins.
And whether you like Goins as a player or not, the fact is that this tweet represents a significant portion of the Blue Jays fanbase. Simply put, a lot of Jays fans loved having him around. It’s still not impossible that he comes back on a minor-league deal, but it’s very unlikely that the team views that as a priority.
Statistically though? The case to keep Ryan Goins around isn’t strong. He’s below replacement level offensively, and his defensive metrics declined in 2017. Goins’ bWAR in 2017 was -0.2. In 2016, it was -0.6.
It was great for many fans to have Goins around, but the Blue Jays front office clearly realized it was best for the team to have a player with a positive WAR playing second base.
So, let’s forget about Ryan Goins. Let’s also forget about Darwin Barney, who also provided negative bWAR last season.
Instead, let’s talk about Aledmys Diaz.
There isn’t an immediate opening in the Blue Jays infield for Diaz, as Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis seem locked in at shortstop and second base respectively. However, the odds of both of those players completing a season without going on the disabled list isn’t looking great.
In 2017, the plan was to go with Tulowitzki and Travis in the middle infield. Goins played 147 games. Darwin Barney played 129.
Factor in off-days, possible illnesses, minor injuries, and DH days for Tulowitzki, Travis, and Josh Donaldson? Aledmys Diaz shouldn’t have much trouble getting playing time.
So what exactly are the Jays getting in Aledmys Diaz? You could appreciate that he was a National League All-Star in 2016. Unfortunately for that title, it was voted by fans. It doesn’t mean much in player evaluation. Thankfully for Diaz, his stats back up that selection.
He hit .300 in 2016, slugged 17 home runs, and had a 3.5 bWAR. He finished 5th in Rookie of the Year voting.
He had a fantastic rookie season. The next year is when things went wrong. Diaz battled injuries, only playing 79 games. He wasn’t terribly effective when he played, either. His average fell to .259, he hit only 7 homers, and his bWAR fell to -0.7.
There’s reason, however, to be optimistic with Diaz in Toronto. Even if he doesn’t have the power most expected after his rookie season, his totals should improve in the more hitter-friendly Rogers Centre. At the minimum, he’s going to be an improvement over Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney while Richard Urena and Lourdes Gurriel get ready for the show.
Best case scenario, he plays 130+ games, slots in at the top of the order, hits around .290, and gives the Jays the all-around offensive threat they’ve been looking for since mid-2015.
Even in the case that Diaz doesn’t hit his ceiling, he’s still only 27. He’s under team control until 2023.
The Blue Jays entered this offseason with a wishlist, and middle infield was high priority. They didn’t have to pay an absurd amount to get Diaz, and he has a pretty high ceiling. Aledmys Diaz represents exactly what type of player every team likes to add.
Let’s see what he can bring in 2018.