When shortstop Aledmys Diaz defected from Cuba during a tournament in July of 2012, the Cardinals were one of the first teams mentioned as a possible landing place for the prized prospect. It made sense; at the time, the Cardinals were laboring with the combined ineffectiveness of Tyler Greene and Pete Kozma following the injury to Rafael Furcal. The organization also had no significant prospects in its pipeline to eventually take the position.

At that point in time, Diaz was an intriguing-but-unknown quantity. Statistics for Cuban players can be difficult to find or comprehensively assess. No American baseball organization had scouts regularly watching Diaz, either. Still, the available numbers suggested a player with a developing bat and an average glove. Given the market, Diaz would likely be an expensive but promising flier. I discussed Diaz’s numbers in December of 2012 as it appeared he was finally ready to field offers from American teams. Here they are:

Year Age AB AVG OBP SLG HR SB
2008 18 32 .281 .313 .281 0 0/1
2009 19 276 .341 .401 .482 5 0/5
2010 21 262 .282 349 .363 3 2/7
2011 22 282 .294 .435 .433 7 1/3

Needless to say, those numbers are better than any production the Cardinals have received at shortstop since David Eckstein left town. It was easy to be excited by the kid at the time.

Then Diaz’s story takes a detour. It turned out that his birth certificate was falsified (a typical problem with defecting Cuban players), and Diaz was actually a year younger than he claimed. According to MLB rules, a foreign-born player must reach 23 years old before being considered a free agent (otherwise there are significant penalties levied against the signing team). To punish Diaz, MLB barred him from auditioning for American teams for another year.

That “suspension” ended today, and Diaz has wasted no time auditioning for several major league teams, including the Cardinals. As Joe Strauss reported, Diaz showed up to Roger Dean Stadium today and gave Mozeliak and several scouts a 45 minute demonstration of his skill set. According to several sources, the Cardinals are prepared to make Diaz an offer within the next 24 hours.

The big question remains: how much has Diaz lost during his year-long sabbatical? Has his time away from regular play eroded his intriguing ability?

For the Cardinals, an investment in Diaz would reveal their long-term thinking. Having committed $53 million dollars to Jhonny Peralta (a front-loaded contract), signing Diaz would indicate that the team intends to move Peralta to third base in the next 2-3 years (the time Diaz would probably need in the minors), or they intend to shed Peralta at some point during this four year contract. Either possibility makes a lot of long-term sense.

Three other teams are rumored to be interested enough in Diaz to offer him a contract in the coming days. One of those teams is probably the Yankees, and they will likely open the vault to find a successor to Derek Jeter. According to Diaz’s agent (who also represents Alexei Ramirez and Yasiel Puig), Diaz is ready to play in the majors right now. But if Diaz is willing to spend some time in the minors and develop his game — and his cost remains reasonable — the Cardinals should definitely pursue this promising long-term answer at shortstop.

 

 

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About The Author

Lifelong Cardinal fan and general loudmouth.