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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

I am from Missouri on Aledmys Diaz

There is a lot of excitement about the St. Louis Cardinals’ signing of Cuban ex-pat Aledmys Diaz – from the club, some writers and fans as well. Reports have been mixed about the second baseman-shortstop as his four-year deal for under $20 just $8 million fell short of some all expectations, however.

The 23-year-old did receive a major league contract. Yet the organization made it clear that Diaz will be assigned to “the high minor league level,” not St. Louis. Scouts’ opinions differ as to whether Diaz’ defense is major-league quality at short or if he will be destined to play second and whether he will be good enough to start in the big leagues.

There are also questions about the bat, despite the club calling Diaz “an offensively-gifted middle infielder.” Earlier, I wrote about Diaz’ minor league equivalencies. His numbers looked remarkably similar to not much better than the ones Pete Kozma put up last season.

When in Jupiter a few weeks ago, Diaz’ agent Jaime Torres called him major-league ready. Then again, Torres also participated in Diaz’ unsuccessful age falsification attempt that led to the latter’s suspension by Major League Baseball. They tried to age the infielder so his signing club’s offer would not be restricted by its international bonus pool.

Several major media reports indicate that Diaz has not played in 18 months – since he defected. That is not the case.

Prior to a series of showcases in Mexico and the US designed for scouts, Diaz was scheduled to play in Mexico. It was rumored he would suit up in highest level of winter competition, the Mexican Pacific League, and he did. Diaz took the field for exactly one game for Los Tomateros de Culiacan.

Diaz then dropped down to the Veracruz Winter League (or Liga Invernal Veracruzana, LIV). LIV action is at a lower level than the Mexican Pacific League, whose representative participates in the Caribbean Series. Instead, the LIV winner plays in what is called the Latin American Series against the top teams of Panama, Nicaragua and Colombia.

Diaz didn’t stay all that long in LIV, either – perhaps because he did not hit. In 49 plate appearances over 15 games, Diaz’ line was an anemic .205/.227/.271/.498. That is hardly inspiring anywhere, but especially concerning considering the level of competition. Suffice it to say there aren’t any Clayton Kershaws in Veracruz – unless they are on vacation.

Hopefullly the Cardinals will be patient with Diaz and give him time, because his bat may need it. Until he proves otherwise, I will remain skeptical.

Updates: According to Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch, Diaz’ four-year contract is for just $8 million – a substantial difference from the under $20 million initially reported and the $20-30 million pre-signing estimates. To me that speaks volumes as to Diaz’ actual versus perceived value and expectations should be adjusted accordingly.

Based on a heads up from reader PadsFS, it appears that there was a change in Diaz’ major league equivalencies since I first looked. Diaz’ MLE for his full results in Cuba went from .212/.274/.306/.580 to .229/.307/.360/.667. While that is better, it doesn’t significantly alter my overall view. The change in MLEs can enable a shift of offensive comps from Kozma to Brendan Ryan (.658 OPS as a Cardinal). No matter how good they may be with the glove (and we don’t know yet if Diaz is anywhere near their league defensively), neither one hit enough to hold the job.

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43 Responses to “I am from Missouri on Aledmys Diaz”

  1. blingboy says:

    An issue of some concern might be make up. I say that because he seems to have fully cooperated with his sleezy agent’s age fraud scheme. Youthful mis-deed hopefully, but evidence that integrity is not deeply rooted in his character. Perhaps a dose of The Cardinal Way will make him stand a litter taller.

    I do not think the Cards’ skill at scouting out a shortstop prospect is likely to be better than that of other teams. But if even a broken clock is right twice a day, maybe we are due.

  2. Nutlaw says:

    If nothing else, it’s the right position to be bolstering in the minor league system.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      The Cuban who replaced Peralta at SS for the Tigers is slick fielding Jose Iglesias. He was signed by the Red Sox in Sept 2009, for around $8MM, four years, similar deal to the one the Cards have given Diaz.

      Iglesias spent 3 seasons in the minors, emerging at the major league level during 2014. Now a valued member of the Tigers, Iglesias OPSd 735 during his rookie year, a fine offensive performance for an elite defender at SS.

      There is nothing out of the ordinary in a Cuban player beginning in the minor leagues. Expensive LHP Chapman of the Reds played in the minors. So did Dodgers star RF Puig and SS Iglesias of the Tigers. Exciting baseball talents from Cuba can command major league contracts, despite needing minor league experience. Palm Beach might make a reasonable starting point for our Diaz. He can work his way up the ladder.

      • blingboy says:

        Hopefully having the 40 man spot tied up with a minor leaguer for 2 or 3 years will not cause the team troubles. Not to mention using up his options before he makes his debut.

        • CariocaCardinal says:

          You are talking about Rondon and Fornatero right? :)

        • JumboShrimp says:

          Good Cuban baseball players age 23 and above have a lot of marketplace leverage. This is why some can land bonuses far above a US amateur whose earning power is suppressed via the draft. For illustration, we bonused SS Machado about $1.5MM last June, but Diaz can obtain much more, $8MM, plus a major league contract to boot, because a true free agent. Back in 2007, the Tigers gave Rick Porcello a ML contract, coming out of a New Jersey high school, an indicator of his leverage. Giving somebody a ML contract does not imply the Cards think Diaz is ready to play in the majors right now. Mo has clearly said otherwise.

          His agent can claim Diaz is ML ready, but this is just normal agent happy talk. The agent already has lied once about Diaz’s age to gain negotiating leverage. The agents job is to try to maximize a deal for his client, both bonus and a ML contract. We probably could have signed Diaz to a minor league contract if we gave him a bonus of $9MM, but this would have cost an extra million, so we elected not to do this.

          The Cards only had 36 men on their 40 man roster this past November, so we have room to protect Diaz from the Rule 5 draft. Since these Cuban players have been enslaved by the Castro brothers until they escape their captors, they are older than most US or other Latin amateurs signed by ML tems. Giving a ML contract to a Cuban acknowledges a man has been denied a fair chance to enter pro ball at a younger age.

          • JumboShrimp says:

            One bottom line is the Cards have gone way beyond where they have gone during their long history, shelling out $8MM to sign a kid from Cuba. Their previous high bonus was $3MM for J D Drew, so we have smashed this record. It is unlikely signing Diaz was done casually or without painstaking scouting and careful thought.

            • JumboShrimp says:

              One recent US amateur to whom the Cards bestowed a ML contract was 3B Zack Cox, top pick in 2010. The reason was because Cox was a draft eligible college sophomore. This kind of person has a lot of negotiating leverage with teams, because he can elect to return to college and be redrafted as a junior. This is why we had to sweeten the deal by giving him a ML deal.

              Where did Cox get assigned to begin 2011? Palm Beach. Just because you have a ML contract does not mean you begin at the ML level. Diaz’s “major league equivalencies” do not concern me. (I would instead be interested in the Florida State League equivalency of Diaz’s Cuban performance.)

              Would it be reasonable to start Diaz in the Florida State? Yes, if SS Jose Iglesias is a reasonable comparison. Iglesias landed a similar contract from the Red Sox and spent three seasons in the minors. Diaz’s 4 year deal should be looked upon as providing 4 years of development, to ready him as a ML candidate. If he can move up faster, it would be up to him.

              • JumboShrimp says:

                The Diaz situation has probably been made a little bit confused by negative stories that some teams did not see him as a SS or were not going to bid on him.
                The Dodgers have recent invested about $50MM to sign a Cuban SS and a Cuban 2Bman. After this splurge, even the Dodgers are not going to shell out more big bucks for another middle infielder.
                The agent Torres tried to interest the Yankees, but the Bombers have become tighter with moola now George is gone. Are the Yanks going to admit to fans that they are cheap? No. Instead they may have floated a lame story about doubting Diaz could field SS.
                The Cardinals think Diaz can field SS. They boldly backed his opinion with the largest signing contract they have ever given, during the past century. To put it into perspective, the deal for Diaz was slightly larger than the signing contracts for J D Drew, Shelby Miller, and Rick Ankiel, combined! These had been the highest bonuses the Cards have ever given out, but the Diaz deal trumped the combination of these three. Mo believes Diaz can field and hit enough for SS.

              • Brian Walton says:

                I am reluctant to interrupt you while you are spinning yarns, but if you simply read the team’s press release, it says Diaz will open “at the high minor league level.” That is not Palm Beach.

                • JumboShrimp says:

                  The ladder for the Cards has 8 rungs (DSL, GCL, Appalachian, NYPa, Midwest, Florida State, Texas, and AAA). The Palm Beach rung would be 6th highest. This could fit “high minor league level.” The Cards could have specified the rung in their press release, but preferred some ambiguity.

                  • Brian Walton says:

                    No, A ball is not high minor league level. There are only five levels – Triple-A, Double-A, A, Short-season A and Rookie.

                    • blingboy says:

                      If Diaz is seriously overmatched in the Texas League we got played. Besides, it would be unsightly to have a guy with a major league contract in A ball.

                    • JumboShrimp says:

                      Jose Iglesias essentially spent his first year of US ball, 2010, at AA. Accordingly, it seems plausible Diaz could spend most of 2014 with Springfield. It would not be surprising, however, if the Cards give Aledmys 100 at bats at Palm Beach first, to start his acclimation.

                    • JumboShrimp says:

                      Back in 1991, when RHP Rene Archoa escaped Cuba, he was 25. MLB held a lottery for signing rights. Only 8 teams entered, since Archoa was a refugee and not in playing shape. The Cards were remarkably desperate for pitching in those woeful days, so entered the lottery and won. This is how we obtained Archoa, not by outbidding other teams in a competitive labor market as we have done with SS Diaz, but by the luck of a draw.

                      The Cards sent Archoa to AAA during 1992 to find out what they had.

                • crdswmn says:

                  That’s a lot of yarn spinning, even for Jumbo. I have a sudden urge for a rocking chair, a pipe, and a big dog at my feet.

  3. Brian Walton says:

    For $8 million, I am good with it as long as it is accepted for what it is – a relatively inexpensive lottery ticket.

  4. CariocaCardinal says:

    So when Shelby and Wacha dropped in the draft, they obviously were overhyped and not wanted by many teams – how did that turn out?

    And what is with massive drama about his visa? Same thing happens with draftees from Canada, they arrive later than other draftees because they have to wait for their work visa. The Cards were well aware of this when they signed him.

    • Brian Walton says:

      I cannot tell to whom you are addressing these points.

      1) Seems irrelevant since in the draft, every team makes selections in a relatively fixed price structure. It isn’t as much that teams probably didn’t want Shelby or Wacha, but that they wanted other players more. I don’t see an analogy to a free agent in a non-restricted market as was the case with Diaz.

      2) I was simply answering blingboy’s questions. I do wonder if the visa delay won’t keep Diaz out of big league games this spring, but honestly, I think that could be ok. Let him get his feet on the ground in the minors and go from there.

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