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Disconnecting Pete Kozma and Aledmys Diaz

I engaged in a civil, but limited to 140-character Twitter discussion Monday afternoon with @stlcardscards. His initial post, which drew my attention, was the following (“him” refers to Aledmys Diaz).

“The Cardinals risked losing him through the DFA process so that they wouldn’t have to put Kozma in AAA.”

@stlcardscards wanted Greg Garcia in St. Louis during the season and he felt that the team should have designated Cardinals reserve infielder Pete Kozma for assignment instead of Diaz. (Kozma is out of minor league options, so could not be sent down without being exposed to irrevocable waivers.)

After a number of exchanges between us, in a later Tweet, @stlcardscards stepped back from what appeared to be the initial “either-or” implication. His clarification was that he felt that Kozma should have been first on the club’s DFA list, but that the Cardinals did not expose him for fear of losing him.

“correct. Not either-or, but at the time Kozma was, to me, the most obvious pick off the 40 man. They had 40 options, Koz best.”

I disagree with the linking of the two – Kozma and Diaz. I also highly question that Kozma was the best DFA choice at the time.

However, I do agree that the Cardinals appeared to be averse to the risk of losing Kozma via waivers. Had @stlcardscards stopped there, there would have been no debate – at least with me.

As an aside, whether or not I agreed with the team on their Kozma stance is irrelevant. Though especially with the benefit of Garcia’s good play in September and the subsequent decision to leave Kozma off the Division Series roster, going back and wondering why the change was not made sooner than the final month is understandable.

One thing seems clear. Neither infielder would have been a factor in the NLDS loss to the Chicago Cubs, but maybe the damage was done earlier.

Perhaps an emergence of Garcia as a viable reserve option during the summer could have led to more rest for Jhonny Peralta and Kolten Wong down the stretch. Yet I wonder whether Mike Matheny would have used Garcia much more than he used Kozma before September, anyway. It wasn’t just a fear of using Kozma. The manager certainly did not often put Mark Reynolds at third, shifting Matt Carpenter to second to relieve Wong, either. In addition, Garcia is not nearly as good of a defender at short as Kozma, which may limit his future.

Let’s now drill into the Diaz-related points.

The Cardinals exposed Diaz to waivers on July 8th to make room on the 40-man roster for first baseman Dan Johnson. What I felt was the real mistake is that the organization earlier specifically decided not to work Stephen Piscotty out at first base this spring since they had signed Reynolds as a free agent.

When Matt Adams was hurt, the Cardinals still did not try Piscotty at first with Memphis until after Johnson was in St. Louis. They wasted over three weeks on Johnson, who was DFAed himself at the end of July for the next interim first baseman tried, Brandon Moss. Piscotty had been called up to St. Louis for the first time a week earlier, but had not yet earned regular at-bats. His MLB debut at first base was on July 26th.

Wouldn’t it have been better if Piscotty was ready to be promoted as a first baseman on July 8th (or even better, earlier) and the Cardinals skipped the Johnson trial entirely?

Back to Diaz. When the then-Springfield shortstop was DFAed, he was batting just .236 and then (and still) carried a Major League contract that had two and a half years remaining. It was not a great surprise he went unclaimed by the other 29 organizations. At that point, it would have been laughable to suggest Diaz could move up to Memphis to backfill for the proposed loss of Kozma on waivers.

Since then, Diaz is a changed man, not only hitting amazingly well at Springfield in August, but also keeping it up in a brief season-ending trial at Memphis. In addition, the Cuban earned a spot in the Arizona Fall League, where he is currently competing. With the late-season improvement, Diaz probably would not clear waivers today, but even so, he remains months off from demonstrating the consistency and readiness to help in St. Louis, in my assessment.

Specifically to my main point of contention with @stlcardscards, if the Cardinals wanted to demote Kozma at any time in 2015, they had plenty of other 40-man roster options than just Diaz.

Specifically, here are the six other Cardinals who were DFAed this season, five of them occurring after Diaz. Any one of them could have been scuttled for Kozma, instead, if the club wanted to do it. It is pretty clear none of them has a future in St. Louis.

My bottom line is that there is no more a tie between Kozma and Diaz than between Kozma and Kelly or Kozma and Johnson or Kozma and Hatley, etc…

The Cardinals may soon have a real chance to link the two, however. Kozma is a candidate to be non-tendered for 2016. Perhaps his spot could be used to return Diaz to the 40-man roster and protect him from December’s Rule 5 Draft.

The identity of the Cardinals’ reserve middle infielder next season is anyone’s guess at this time.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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52 Responses to “Disconnecting Pete Kozma and Aledmys Diaz”

  1. blingboy says:

    Maybe he never heard of the Cardinals until a couple months ago.

  2. crdswmn says:

    Twitter has a never ending supply of baseball geniuses and arm chair GMs.

    I don’t understand the Kozma paradigm and I don’t imagine I ever will. What goes on during the Matheny/Mozeliak collaboration, or mind meld, or whatever one wants to call it, is a state secret, and one I am not sure I want to understand. The results are often perplexing and frustrating, but it is what it is, as The Great Ryan Theriot would say. 😉

    Great fodder for blogs and message boards, though.

    And yeah, Garcia has a better bat than Kozma for sure, but that glove is awful. I would be looking for better alternatives for the MI if it was me. That is my arm chair GM thought for the day. 😉

    • Brian Walton says:

      99 percent of the time when I take exception to something on twitter, I just let it pass. This time, it was a comment made to a tweet I had re-tweeted, so the distribution was wider. I did not want people to think I agreed.

      In this case, the person took his strong dislike of how Kozma was handled and applied it to a place where it did not fit, discussion of Diaz as a prospect. Trying to explain that in 140-character bursts is a real challenge.

      • crdswmn says:

        Yeah, I get why you responded. I would have too in that situation.

        Twitter has its uses, but having a clear and comprehensible conversation isn’t one of them.

        It’s also full of annoying people, but you know that.

  3. CariocaCardinal says:

    To assume they are unrelated is to assume the Cards do not consider positional depth when making roster decisions. Even you (Brian) link them in the context of saying that ” At that point, it would have been laughable to suggest Diaz could move up to Memphis to backfill for the proposed loss of Kozma on waivers”. I also take exception to the quoted commented. The Cards have often promoted under performing AA performs to backfill so why would it be laughable? There was also Matt Williams available (up and down to AAA all year).

    Risking Diaz over risking losing Kozma doesn’t make much sense if the Cards consider Diaz a real prospect. IF they dont, it really doesn’t matter either way.

    • Brian Walton says:

      I linked them in my comment only to point out how unrealistic the idea would have been to connect the two. All minor leaguers are not equal and are not treated equally. Matt Williams is an organizational guy, similar to others before him like Vance Albitz, ready to be moved when there is a roster need, as opposed to when he was ready. The Cards have much more invested in Diaz and would not have promoted him (or other real prospects) to Triple-A when struggling in the Texas League, batting .230-something in a second shot at the league.

      Do you think the Cards would have bothered to send a Matt Williams to extended spring training for extra tutoring because he was hitting .217 at Springfield? Nope, but they would for a prospect like Patrick Wisdom.

      I do agree on one point. If Kozma had been DFAed and was claimed, I could see Williams being a prime candidate to be moved up to Memphis to replace whichever Triple-A infielder was called up to St. Louis.

      The whole point that started the discussion was Diaz re-establishing his prospect luster with the tweeter being upset that Diaz was DFAed earlier instead of Kozma. I doubt he actually cared about Diaz at the time. The whole exchange had nothing to do with Diaz, really. It was about him rehashing that he wanted Kozma gone, with a hindsight dig at the organization’s decision-making.

  4. JumboShrimp says:

    Diaz was partly claim protected because he carried a price tag of $5MM of residual contract.

    His 2014 was not encouraging, given a sore wing. However, during 2015, he was able to stay healthy and his bat perked up. Has Diaz boosted his stock as a prospect? We shall find out, when the Cards set their 40 man roster for Rule 5.

    • Brian Walton says:

      I am not sure I would call it “claim protected”, but his contract was certainly an inhibitor. The contract was noted as a factor in the original post, though I did not cite the amount. Diaz’ bat perked up for the last four weeks, as he was still at .236 for the season as late as July 30. The fall league is a big test for him. If he can keep it up, it will help his future for sure. If he is not protected, he may have shown enough already that someone might take the gamble on him this time around.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Last night, soler homered for the Cubs, but was still outplayed by the Cuban OF for the Mets. Cuban players are contributing valuably. It may behoove the Cards to be careful as regards Diaz. If he ever contributes in the majors. He will be money well spent.

      • Brian Walton says:

        Agreed. Relatively low risk either way.

        • JumboShrimp says:

          At the same time, we invested more in Diaz than any non US professional in the history of the franchise, $8mm smackers. Cubans above an age threshold enjoy a genuine open market for their labors.

      • blingboy says:

        It is only fair to point out that Diaz is 25 and just finished his 8th pro season. He might be expected to do well in AA. If you want to call .264 ‘well’. And, yes, I know he did better for a couple months. He also did worse for a couple months.

        Assuming he does OK at Memphis, the org will want to get a look at him in STL sometime next season. If all goes well, he makes the team in 2017, the last year of his contract, and Mo decides whether to dump more money on him to replace Peralta who will be gone after 2017.

        Lets hope all those orgs that bailed upon seeing him work out have dumber computers than us.

        • JumboShrimp says:

          There is a lot of money within baseball, plus plenty of uncertainty. Loads of opportunities for second guessing.
          Some Cuban infielders have received 20mm plus; the cards like to make smaller gambles.

        • Brian Walton says:

          How do you know that other orgs “bailed” vs. the Cards just offering the most money/years?

          What we do know is that Diaz had a sore shoulder, so may not have been able to make his best showing.

          We also know that his good months are the most recent ones, which is a positive. I agree with you on the overall timeframe, though. 2016 should be his time to prove himself.

          • blingboy says:

            Inferred from the asking price going off a cliff once he started working out for teams. Like I said, though, maybe we are smarter.

            Speaking of Diaz, I listened to an interesting conversation at the Bocce bar the other day. Had to do with when/if the Cards look into extending his contract. One view was that the org should take a look next season at MLB level and then decide before his bargaining position/value goes up. The other was wait until mid 2017 when he either is, or is not, Peralta’s replacement for 2018. If he is, of course, he then has Mo backed into a corner. That would be the argument for doing it before the issue is decided.

            • JumboShrimp says:

              Given pricey bonuses handed out by the Dodgers, it was responsible of Diaz’s agent to ask for the moon. But the Dodgers are only going to sign so many Cubans per year, so the market then drops off, after the drunken sailors are done spending money.
              Its hard to believe the Cards would have signed Diaz, if they knew he had a sore arm and could not play.
              During 2014, the prudently shut him down. Thereafter he re-habbed and rebuilt his health. That’s a positive.
              Then during 2015, he improved progressively thru the season, as a hitter.
              Thus going into 2016, he is in a pretty good situation. He is healthy and ready to play at Memphis. This is all we can reasonably expect, at this time.

            • Brian Walton says:

              You are right that his rumored asking price was high. One theory is that it dropped when his tender arm appeared. I don’t know that to be fact, however.

              IMO, extending his MLB contract after one good month-plus in two seasons, a few months after he cleared waivers and with almost no Triple-A experience would be high risk. I am firmly in the wait and see camp.

            • Brian Walton says:

              I was thinking about this over night. What do you mean by “backed into a corner”? It isn’t like Diaz will be eligible for free agency or even arbitration, will he? He has zero MLB service time. I think that all it means is that his option years will have been used up. If he is ready for the majors by then, who cares? If he isn’t ready, the worst case is the Cards are stuck with a reserve middle infielder who can’t hit, like Kozma this year, or they probably lose him with a second outright.

              • blingboy says:

                Yes, you have a point. After the 2017 season the Cards could just renew his contract. I think the max salary reduction is 20%, so that would make it $2M, assuming they can ‘renew’ a 4 year contract with a 1 year contract.

                I did finally find my file on Diaz stuff from back when we signed him. Here is a quote from Peter Bjarkman (one of the more knowledgeable folks out there on Cuban baseball):

                I saw Aledmis Díaz play frequently in the Cuban National Series and also during his one international appearance with the Cuban B-level national team in Haarlem in 2012. I just don’t see him as a very strong major league prospect. He may well get there, but I would peg him as a AA ballplayer or perhaps a Mexican leaguer. That is a view that was also shared by the vast majority of MLB scouts who I chatted with about him in Haarlem in 2012 when he abandoned the Cuban team.

                He is a very heady player with considerable baseball savvy, but he just didn’t seem to have the physical tools or reaction time to play in a big league infield. He put up decent offensive numbers in Cuba, but that was a few seasons back at the time there were dozens of .300-plus hitters in the league and when Cuban rosters were filled with numerous young pitchers who struggled to throw above 80 mph and who had one-pitch arsenals.

                http://www.vivaelbirdos.com/2014/2/26/5451302/aledmys-diaz-cuban-shortstop-st-louis-cardinals-more-firsthand-analysis

  5. Bw52 says:

    Nice to see all the bred Cubbie fans.heading for 109 years of futllity and counting.Now if Toronto can come back to beat the scumbag royals.

  6. JumboShrimp says:

    The Mets did for four games what the Cards did during the first game versus the Cubs. In Game 1, Lackey controlled the Cubbies. Their hitters did not get a chance to feel their oats. If the Cubs do not score a lot of runs, they were vulnerable in 2015, giiven shallow pitching and some weak defenders.

    Imagine if Jaime Garcia had had his head screwed on and pitched as he can, and controlled the Cubs. And if Carlos Martinez had remained healthy and controlled them at Wrigley during game 3. Then it would have been the Birds sweeping in Game 4 against a weak Cubs starting pitcher.

    Garcia’s mental state, the injury to Martinez, and Wacha’s slump led to a much different result.

    • Brian Walton says:

      You seem to be saying that Garcia’s problem was not the flu, but a “mental state” issue, that his head was not “screwed on”. What do you base that opinion on?

      • JumboShrimp says:

        His being unable to sleep for several nights and then only telling Mike an hour before game time.
        Clearly he had a case of stage fright. Or a Hamlet quandry, to pitch or not to pitch, this is my question.
        Hey, it’s a big game, a big boy is supposed not to wet his pants and thumb-suck, but to get into an appropriate state of mind to compete and win.
        It’s one thing to need TJ surgeries and to have a sore shoulder. These are physical problems derived from pitching.
        But not sleeping and choking, these are not physical challenges. I am not sure mo will pick up Jaimes contract for 2016, because it’s hard to pay a guy $10mm but not be able to trust him to get up for a big game. Bob Gibson did not have problems performing when it counted most.

        • Brian Walton says:

          No one can be sure until the option is actually picked up, but I would give it about 90 percent odds of happening. That will anger some fans, but it is smart business.

          • JumboShrimp says:

            I used to be 98 percent sure the Cards would pick up Garcia, now I am much less sure, 50 percent at most.
            The guy let us down at a crucial point. It’s not giving up five runs. It’s not giving the team responsible warning that he was not well. That’s hard to forgive, because it’s about trust.

        • Brian Walton says:

          Career post-season ERAs:

          Jaime Garcia 3.94
          Michael Wacha 4.08
          Lance Lynn 4.50

          I guess the other two guys pooped their pants in the big games, huh? 😉

          • JumboShrimp says:

            What matters is responsible behavior by an employee. It was irresponsible not to inform the cards he could not sleep and needed medical evaluation. He had several days when he could have notified the team that he was not feeling good. An hour before game time is absurd.

        • blingboy says:

          Jaime the Head Case will be back. Hopefully they will be showing him some ink blots this winter.

          • JumboShrimp says:

            The dewitts may not want to fork over another $11mm to someone who cannot be trusted to notify the team in a timely way that he is unwell.
            I would rather give Lackey $17mm for demonstrAted leadership than Garcia $11mm for demonstrated unreliability.

            • Brian Walton says:

              There isn’t a real choice to make. The Cards will make Lackey a qualifying offer and he will turn it down for a multi-year deal with another club. His odds of staying for 2016 are very low, about the inverse of Garcia’s option being picked up, IMO.

              • JumboShrimp says:

                I was on this wavelength too. Financially, it used to make economic sense to retain Garcia.
                Then came the fiasco of not informing the team that he had problems until the cusp of Game 2.
                Now, I don’t know. I don’t know how Mo or DeWitt can give Jaime so much money, when he has shown that he cannot be trusted to be responsible.
                Leadership matters. Lackey led by example, whereas Garcia showed weak judgment and did not inform the team of his problems. Garcia will make a lot of money in 2016. If he were making $2MM, it would be easy to retain him, not matter how nutty. But at a big salary, you expect more responsible conduct. If they retain him, they need to hire a body guard and minder, to monitor him around the clock.

                • Brian Walton says:

                  You make Garcia sound like Josh Hamilton.

                  • JumboShrimp says:

                    I was more thinking of Khalil. Greene could have used a mindset coach.

                  • JumboShrimp says:

                    Maybe exercising Jaime’s option reflects questions about starting pitchers. Wainwright is coming off serious injury. Carlos Martinez got shut down, good, but how will he be next spring? Will Wacha and Lynn bounce back? Lackey may leave. Marco Gonzalez is a huge question mark.
                    Cooney and Garcia, no matter how muddled, ay be the most reliable candidates to eat innings during 2016.

                    • JumboShrimp says:

                      When Mo moves into the post-season, there are a great number of free agents to explore, plus trade possibilities. This results in a great deal of uncertainty. It has to be very complicated and stressful.
                      Jaime is a controllable situation. Mo may like firming up easy decisions first, to reduce uncertainty and the costly negotiating leverage of free agents, because we are less frantic to obtain a backfill.

                    • Brian Walton says:

                      The timing has nothing to with what Mo might prefer. Teams are required to make decisions on exercising all options within five days of the conclusion on the World Series.

                      Unfortunately, that means two more weeks of your analysis on the Garcia subject.

  7. crdswmn says:

    Good God, the whining. Make it stop.

  8. blingboy says:

    The Head Piece has been sort of enigmatic all along. Mo, I believe it was, has in the past mentioned how hard it is to keep him on the field. That may have been some frustration, as at the time, I believe Jaime was going outside the org for treatment, and not with the blessing of the org. He will be back. Hopefully the ink blots will help. There is another option for 2017, I believe. I doubt seriously he will still be here by the end of 2017. I am also thinking it wouldn’t hurt to have Dixie Cups take a look at those blots as well.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Jaime threw a bunch of innings during 2011, helping us to a WS.
      He had physical problems in 2012-14. There were leaked hints of behind the scenes frustrations about diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
      However, it seems to have turned out Jaime was proved right to get the operation that Chris Carpenter had that includes removing a rib. This is the operation Jaime obtained in summer 2014, and it seemingly enabled him to revive his effectiveness during 2015.
      What came up versus the Cubs is something different. No bad ligament or sore shoulder. Nothing physical. Instead, he could not sleep for three nights before the big game. He felt poorly, but never told the team until an hour before the big game. If he really had flu, maybe a medication would have helped restore health. He pitched and made an error in the second, contributing to a bad outing.
      If he pitches well in 2016, the Cards will be happy. They own another optional year of control for 2017.

  9. crdswmn says:

    Thank you Doctor Freud.

    Sheesh, the narratives never end. If Jaime was such a problem child, why would the Cardinals be so eager to pick up his option?

    He’s a good pitcher and as long as he is healthy, he is worth keeping. Everything else is nonsense.

    • blingboy says:

      They are eager because it is for one year. He is worth keeping on a one year contract. If he does well, he will be worth another one year contract. Mo will never again give Jaime a multi-year deal. Jaime will not be hear after 2017. That is no reason not to take advantage of the favorable terms right now.

      • crdswmn says:

        I don’t recall anyone advocating signing Jaime to another multi-year contract. All I have heard is whining about what happened in Game 2 and suggestions that he is psychologically challenged.

        Seems to me if Jaime is as much of an annoyance to the Cardinals as it is claimed, they wouldn’t want him back for even one year. I mean. Jumbo has likened him to Khalil Greene, and we all know what happened to him.

  10. JumboShrimp says:

    In the Garcia happy talk department, I do like it that the Cards inked his cousin, the catcher from NAIA power Missouri Baptist. We can always use another catcher to staff the minors. If he plays hard, maybe he can climb the ladder. The cards have given an employment opportunity to a family member. During the Great Recession, all jobs are good jobs.

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