Let me first say that the simplest explanation may be the best one.
When Houston hired Charlie Gonzalez away from the Cardinals, it was likely to fill holes in its scouting department. After all, as Evan Drellich points out in the story on the move, Houston has lost two key figures in its ivory hunting operation. The most notable loss there was national crosschecker David Post went to San Diego.
Gonzalez could fill one of the vacant positions, but may need to be a special assistant to avoid contract entanglements with the Cardinals and Astros.
But, let me float another theory for what Gonzalez could be doing.
In the process of finding its new manager, the Astros were said to have quite a bit of interest in former Pirates bench coach (and current Rangers manager) Jeff Banister. The hometown coach came from a staff that had an unusual relationship with the front office. Clint Hurdle and Banister did not come up in an analytics department, but they got as much as they could out of the numbers by relying on a front office liaison.
Jonah Keri breaks down the whole arrangement in a terrific piece for Grantland. It shows how people are integrating the advanced thinking into baseball decisions in an organic way. I'm sure this is what the Astros want to do. Maybe talking with Banister was just a way to gather information on how other teams are doing this.
What if they intend Gonzalez to fill that same role Mike Fitzgerald has with Pittsburgh?
It may not be as critical a role for Houston. Maybe hiring guys with front office experience like A.J. Hinch and, to a lesser extent, Trey Hillman make this a moot point. Those guys may be more receptive to the numbers without a squint to explain it all to them.
But, if the Astros really learn from how the Bo Porter era ended, they may want someone on staff that functions the way the Pirates' Fitzgerald does. That guy could be Gonzalez.
Even if that's not his function, Gonzalez will do one thing. He brings an outsider perspective to a front office that has drawn fire all season.
If Gonzalez can audit Houston's processes and maybe show them where they've gone off course, then he'll be an impactful hire. The process doesn't have to be broken to be improved.
We'll probably go for the rest of his tenure without writing about Charlie Gonzalez. There may not be another article written about him on this site. As I mentioned above, this is probably overthinking the move. He's a scouting guy who was likely brought in to bolster a suddenly-thin scouting department.
Overthinking small moves is what the offseason is all about, right?