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.