FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jason Castro was in the car Friday when a text message popped up on his phone.
It was a group chat with some of his friends from back home mentioning a reunion with Marwin Gonzalez, which prompted him to immediately go online and check it out.
That’s how Castro found out the Twins had inked the versatile Gonzalez, his former teammate, to a two-year, $21million deal.
Though the Twins haven’t made the Gonzalez deal official yet, they’re eager to add him to their clubhouse for a myriad of reasons.
“I think, for him to reach this point in free agency and not have signed anywhere, I was pretty shocked,” Castro said. “To see that we signed him, I was equally excited.”
Gonzalez, 29, hit .247/.324/.409 last season with the Astros with 16 home runs. In his seven-year major league career, he is a .264 hitter.
But what makes Gonzalez truly stand out is his ability to play multiple positions, which allowed the Astros to deploy him nearly everywhere around the diamond.
“Most of the guys at this level are good athletes, but for someone to excel at different positions, infield, outfield, anywhere on either side of the diamond at this level, it’s even more impressive,” Castro said.
In describing Gonzalez, manager Rocco Baldelli traded the words “utility player” for “multi-positional everyday player.”
Last year, Gonzalez played mostly in left field with a fair share of shortstop, second base and first base thrown in. Though he didn’t have a permanent position, he still managed a career-high 552 plate appearances.
That’ll give Baldelli more flexibility as he fills out his lineup card, allowing him to insert Gonzalez when he wants to give either infielders or outfielders days off.
“The fact that he can do so many things, it truly gives us options when setting lineups, in-game moves, he lets you do almost anything that you might want to do and that’s really helpful,” Baldelli said.
Gonzalez also brings another veteran presence to the clubhouse, and one with plenty of postseason experience at that.
“Me and him and (Dallas) Keuchel and (Jose) Altuve were some of the original Astros before the rebuild really started,” Castro said. “I’ve played with him for a long time. I’ve seen him come up, and he’s a great teammate. He works hard and he’s a competitor on the field. He’s a great guy to have on your team.”
Beyond what Gonzalez will bring both to the clubhouse and the lineup, the signing sent a message to the locker room.
“Well, we’re all in, so they should be too,” designated hitter Nelson Cruz, who was signed this offseason, said of the front office. “That’s the good news. It shows they’re trying to win, too. We’re all pretty excited. If we stay healthy, we have a shot.”